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How Biology Majors Can Prepare for Graduate School


Daniel Feinberg '12
Daniel Feinberg '12
What have you been up to since leaving Hamilton?

The summer after I graduated from Hamilton (2012), I worked as a Paleobiology Teaching Assistant at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth on the Franklin & Marshall campus in Lancaster, PA. This position inspired me to pursue further teaching opportunities during graduate school. From 2012 to 2014, I earned my MS in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL. Currently, I am pursuing a PhD at the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences in Seattle, WA. Along the way, I have been teaching and working as a Research Assistant. In my spare time, I enjoy Seattle’s music scene and nearby parks. I also met my fiancée here!

What was your experience at Hamilton like?

I was a Biology major and participated in a variety of campus organizations, such as WHCL. Although several of my favorite courses and professors were in the Biology Department, I also appreciated the open curriculum and explored other areas, including Economics and Literature. I made close friends living in Wertimer as a freshman and trekking up the hill through the snow. During the fall of my junior year, I left campus to participate in the Semester in Environmental Science at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA (I highly recommend this program). The summer before my senior year, I researched invasive plants in the glens around Hamilton, under the advisement of Professor Bill Pfitsch; this project helped me to develop ideas for my Senior Thesis and subsequent research projects.

In what ways did it prepare you (or not prepare you) for your following MS and PhD candidacy?

Hamilton prepared me well for the academic rigor of graduate school and for communicating my work (both orally and in writing).

What does an average day look like, between being a student and university instructor?

Every day is different! This fall, I am teaching a class (Management of Wildland Recreation and Amenities) and gearing up for my dissertation, along with preparing research papers for publication and keeping an eye out for grants and fellowships.

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What are the challenges and rewards of working in environmental science?

I believe that complex environmental problems require interdisciplinary solutions. Therefore, I strive to learn from and integrate elements of many different disciplines (e.g., ecology; political science; psychology; urban planning). This approach can be both challenging and rewarding.

What advice do you have for students looking to get a head start in the field?

Familiarize yourselves with four types of employers in environmental science: academia, consulting firms, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. Make the most of your summers by working for at least one of these (I worked for a government agency, the US Fish & Wildlife Service). If you are considering graduate school, read peer-reviewed papers and think about how you could contribute something original to the author’s research.

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