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Join the Lab

Thank you for your interest in joining the Ramirez Lab at the UNCW Department of Biology and Marine Biology and Center for Marine Science! Below you will find information about contacting me and my commitment to my trainees.

I will be actively growing my lab over the coming years, so if your research interests align with those outlined on my website, please reach out! I am always happy to discuss potential research ideas and, if the fit seems right, co-develop proposals for research fellowships or other sources of external funding (see more below). I am no longer accepting new graduate students for the 2023 -2024 academic year. Reach back out in summer 2023 for possible 2024 opportunities.  


Upcoming areas of interest for the lab include (1) effects of multiple stressors on marine taxa and systems, (2) drivers of see turtle somatic growth variation, and (3) sponge isotope & food web dynamics. However, our interests are broad and I am open to other ideas that intersect with my labs research fociI am particularly interested in prospective students/postdocs who will bring, or are interested in developing, skillsets that would complement and extend existing lab expertise, especially within the context of global environmental change or marine conservation biology. Studies of North Carolina’s coastal systems as well as non-sea turtle taxa are encouraged. 

I strongly encourage students from groups historically excluded in STEM to inquire about joining the lab, including members of racial or ethnic minority groups, 2SLGBTQ+ people, women, first generation college students, immigrants, individuals with differing abilities, students from a low-income background, or other marginalized groups. 


All prospective graduate students and postdocs should email me directly at ramirezmd [at] with the following information: 

  1. A short statement of your background and career goals and, for prospective graduate students, how obtaining an advanced degree will help you achieve those goals; 

  2. A short summary of your research interests and how they align with those of the lab;

  3. A short summary of potential projects you might be interesting in work on (to serve as a starting point for discussion) and skills/tools you hope to develop as a grad/postdoc;

  4. Potential external funding sources that may be suitable to fund you (see below); and,

  5. A resume or CV that details previous research experiences, educational history, courses, and GPA.


If you are new to writing these emails, check out this useful article

Postdoctoral Researchers

Please contact me directly with the information outlined above if you are interested in pursuing postdoctoral research in my lab. I am particularly interested in potential postdocs whose research interests intersect with those of the lab but who will also bring new expertise (e.g., technique, system, taxa). A demonstrated commitment to student mentorship, public engagement, and/or DEI is also important. Prospective postdocs should contact me well in advance of hopeful start dates (e.g., 1 year or more) to discuss potential projects and funding mechanisms. I am open to working collaboratively on fellowship or research proposals, such as...

Graduate Students

First, it is important to know that at UNCW BMB, admission to the graduate program is primarily based on whether students are accepted into a lab group, which in turn is based on availability of funding and my ability to accommodate additional students in the lab. As a result, if you are interested in joining my lab, it is critical you reach out to me early, specifically the summer before you plan to apply to graduate school (e.g., Summer 2022 for a Fall 2023 start date). Graduate applications are typically due May 15th (February 15th priority deadline) for Fall admission and November 15th (October 15th priority deadline) for Spring admission. You can learn more about BMB graduate programs on the Graduate Program website. The GRE is no longer required.


Graduate students in the Ramirez Lab will typically join through the MS in Marine Biology or PhD in Integrative, Comparative, & Marine Biology programs. Prospective students whose proposed projects or interests are especially interdisciplinary or applied, or who are considering jobs in the private or policy sectors, may also pursue degrees in the MS in Marine Science or PhD in Applied Coastal and Ocean Sciences programs.


Obtaining external research funding is your surest way into a graduate program, assuming you meet other admission requirements. As a result, I strongly encourage all prospective and current graduate students to proactively seek out external funding to support their graduate education and research. There are a number of competitive national fellowship programs that prospective graduate students should look into to assess eligibility, including the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (due Oct), NOAA Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program (due Dec), Ford Foundation Fellowship Program (due Dec), the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship Program (due Oct), AAUW International Fellowship (due Nov; non-U.S. citizens who identify as women), or others (e.g., HERE). I expect students joining my lab to be competitive for such external funding. If you believe there is a funding mechanism particularly relevant to your proposed research topic, please include that information in your inquiry email. I am happy to work with excellent students to develop fellowship/scholarship proposals that may fund your graduate education and research in my lab. 

Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate research can be a formative experience—it was for me! There will thus always be a place for undergraduates to participate in Ramirez lab research endeavors, ranging from sample preparation to leading an independent project. Usually, undergraduates start by contributing to an ongoing project as a volunteer before transitioning to a formal position in the lab where they may obtain class credit (e.g., HON 191) or be paid (e.g. work study). Students demonstrating sufficient interest and skill may also lead or design a project for a Directed Independent Study (BIO 491) or Honor’s Thesis (BIO 499). I welcome students of all background and experience levels and encourage participation in research as early as your first year at UNCW. Please be aware that space in the lab is limited and I will not be able to accommodate all requests. 


What should you participate in research as an undergraduate? First, many of the skills gained in the lab or field are transferrable to diverse career paths, including hard skills such as data collection and analysis as well as soft skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, and communication. More importantly, forming strong relationships with faculty, graduate student, and/or postdoc mentors may translate into exceptional recommendation letters for graduate school, professional school, and scholarships. 


If you are interesting in joining the Ramirez lan, first read some of our recent publications to get a better sense of what we do. Then, explore the ways you can get involved with research at UNCW. Lastly, e-mail me at ramirezmd [at] with the following information:


  1. A short summary of your research interests, past research experiences, career goals, and explanation for why you would be a good fit for my lab (Note: I am looking for more than just a love of sea turtles)

  2. Unofficial transcript

  3. A resume or CV


Interested students should reach out early (e.g., the semester before they wish to work in the lab).


FYI my research program has little to no opportunities to work with living sea turtles.

My Commitment to My Trainees

Professional mentorship is a central component of my research program. I will dedicate a significant amount of time and energy in helping you progress along your chosen career path, leveraging my expertise and professional connections to aide you in whatever way I can. This includes (but is not limited to) helping you develop your research ideas, get your research funded (i.e., write grants), find relevant training opportunities, form collaborations, develop oral and written communication skills, publish your research, present at conferences, and—to the best of my ability—land a permanent job in your chosen field. I expect my students will pursue diverse career paths in academia, state/federal agencies, non-profits, and industry. In recognition that I cannot effectively advise my mentees in all areas (e.g., non-academic career paths), I strongly encourage all lab members to develop mentorship networks to support them along their journey. I also expect advanced lab members (postdocs, PhD students) to mentor younger lab members (MSc students, undergrads) in both formal and informal ways. There is much for us to learn from each other. I ultimately strive to foster a stimulating, supportive, collaborative, and healthy research environment where everyone has the time, space, and resources to flourish both professionally and personally. Graduate school is hard work, but should not be traumatic.


In turn, I expect all lab members to take ownership of their research projects and educational programs. I will work with you to develop and implement strategies for maintaining work life balance, which is incredibly important to mental health and physical wellbeing. Work hours are generally flexible and I do not expect lab members to regularly work at night or on weekends. However, it important to remember that at the end of the day it is my job to guide and facilitate your training, but your job to get over the finish line. I expect all lab members to advance the Ramirez lab philosophy the science should serve and include everyone by fostering an equitable and inclusive environment in whatever space they inhabit where all people feel welcomed, supported, and valued. Lab members are expected to fully participate in lab and BMB activities (e.g., seminars, social events), and to advance ocean literacy in the public sphere through outreach and reciprocal learning activities. 


Students and postdocs joining my lab will benefit from world-class research and training facilities located at UNCW and CMS, where my lab is physically based. This includes isotope core facilities (UNC-WIRMS) that allow for in-house bulk tissue isotope analysis (C, H, O, N, S) and compound-specific stable isotope analysis of individual amino acids (C, N). Other notable research infrastructure likely to be used by lab members includes CMS’s fleet of research vessels, sea water systems, aquaculture facilities, and drone operations; the Richard M. Dillaman Bioimaging Facility; and, the Louise Oriole Burevitch Laboratory for stranded animal necropsy. Students and postdocs leading applied projects with biotechnology applications may also benefit from public-private partnerships made possible through the UNCW CREST Research Park

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