For Undergraduate Students Interested in the Lab

If you are an undergraduate interested in joining the lab, see our lab website for a list of opportunities.

Advice for Future Ph.D. Applicants

If you plan to apply as a Ph.D. student in my lab in the future, I would strongly recommend working in a summer internship where you could gain experience doing research with dogs. We have a paid summer internship every summer as do other labs, such as the Canine Cognition Center at Yale. Although gaining research experience with dogs is the best way to (1) discern whether you’d be interested in applying to work in our lab and (2) gain experience necessary to make you a competitive candidate, it also is incredibly helpful to gain experience conducting research with human infants and/or children. The most competitive candidates will have had research experience with both dogs and children/infants, either through semester research programs, summer research programs, or post-bach/lab coordinator positions. A great way to find these paid research opportunities with children (and in some cases dogs) is to sign up for the Cognitive Development Society email listserv. Another great resource is this database of paid psychology jobs. However, if you are not able to gain experience with dogs and/or human children/infants I also am interested in students who have a research background with other non-human species besides canids (e.g., primates, dolphins, corvids, horses, foxes, etc.), especially if it is social cognition research. If you’re interested in being a Ph.D. student in my lab in the future, feel free to reach out to me and let me know so you can get on my radar!

Application Advice for Ph.D. Applicants

I am excited to announce that I will be reviewing applications for Ph.D. students for the 2021 application cycle (for students who would begin in Fall 2021). You can find information on applying to our department here. At this time I am only considering students who are interested in either (1) conducting comparative work that directly compares children and dogs (and potentially dingoes) or (2) exclusively conducting research with canids (i.e., dogs and potentially dingoes). If you are an applicant interested exclusively in conducting research with children at Boston College, I would recommend looking into Katherine McAuliffe and/or Sara Cordes’ research.

To get an idea of the type of research I am most interested in conducting with Ph.D. students right now, you can get an overview by looking at my lab’s research page. To get a more in-depth idea of the work I do, you can read my publications with canids on my lab’s publications page (please feel free to email me for PDFs for any of the articles you are not able to access online). Two very short papers that give an idea of the way I think about comparing dogs to human children can be found here and here.

If you are interested in applying to be a Ph.D. student in my lab this application cycle, I highly recommend that you reach out to me via email to let me know you’re interested so I can (a) let you know whether it makes sense for you to apply this cycle and (b) make sure to look for your application. Even if you do not currently have the research experience necessary to have a competitive Ph.D. application I may be able to direct you to other opportunities (e.g., lab coordinator positions) that would give you the opportunity to gain the research experience necessary to apply to the Ph.D. program. (See the section below on “For students interested in applying in future application cycles” to see the sort of background I recommend students gain before applying to work as a Ph.D. student in my lab). In your email please let me know (1) that you’ve found this webpage, (2) what your research background is, and (3) what sort of research you’re interested in conducting with me as a Ph.D. student so I can determine your fit for the lab. Please also attach a CV! (For help on developing a CV you can look at this website and you can look at the CV I used to apply to graduate school as a sample). I am open to discussing the possibility of working with applicants on an NSF GRFP if you reach out to me by mid-August. Know that a GRFP is not at all necessary for applying to our graduate program and that it will take a lot of your time. However, if you happen to have the time during the application cycle it is a good way for us to get to know each other and hone in on a research idea together.

When preparing your application, know that the most important document I look at is your personal statement. There are many different styles of personal statements, but the main things I want to know are (1) how has your previous research experience prepared you to be a successful Ph.D. student in my lab, (2) what sort of projects are you interested in pursuing as part of your Ph.D., and (3) why do you believe my lab and our department at Boston College are a good fit for you? You do not need to know exactly what projects you want to do, but you’ll want to give at least a general idea of the type of questions or topics you’re interested in pursuing. As a sample, you can see the personal statement I used when applying to graduate school (as you will see, I actually started out doing research with children and only began doing research with dogs partway through my Ph.D. program!).

Another important thing to keep in mind when preparing your application is who you choose to ask for your recommendation letters. A competitive applicant will have at least one recommendation letter from a professor or graduate student they have conducted research with in the past, preferably with dogs and/or human children/infants. Your other recommendation letters are up to you, but here are some to consider: (1) a professor you had for a research design course in which you conducted a study as part of the class, (2) an employer or other supervisor (e.g., from one of your extracurriculars) who can speak to your motivation, work ethic, and/or ability to work in or lead a team, and/or (3) other professor who knows you well. In most cases you’ll want all of your letter writers to be people who have known you in some capacity during your time in college, summers between college semesters, or after college (i.e., I would not recommend asking people who only know you from your high school years).