A Unique Environment for Graduate Study
The Department contains an extremely broad diversity of faculty and student research interests, covering the full spectrum of modern biology from biochemistry through environmental biology. Even in this age of specialization, many of the most important and exciting discoveries occur at the boundaries between traditional fields of research. We believe that both students and faculty need to develop as much understanding as possible of the problems and findings of specialties far removed from their own, and that the best way to do this is to interact on a daily basis with colleagues who are working in those areas.
Despite its large size and great diversity, the Department functions in almost all respects as a single entity. The only subdivisions are four informal "interest groups" that meet occasionally to discuss matters of common concern and to elect representatives to the executive committee. These groups are: Molecular Biology and Biochemistry; Genetics, Cell Biology and Developmental Biology; Physiology and Organismal Biology; and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. The four groups are nearly identical in size, showing how successful we have been in maintaining balance among the major areas of modern biology. In addition, the interests of many individual faculty members are unusually broad, in some cases making the choice of interest group a somewhat arbitrary decision. Most faculty appear in several of the ten research areas listed on the Biology home page, and many appear in surprising combinations of areas.
Formal and informal collaborations of many kinds are a major feature of life in the Department, and they frequently cut across interest group lines. The flow of ideas and techniques is facilitated at every turn by an almost complete absence of territoriality. For example, many graduate students do substantial amounts of work in laboratories other than those of their nominal advisor. There is also a great deal of interaction between our Department and the several biological sciences departments in the nearby School of Medicine. Most students and faculty members place a high value on the stimulation they receive from belonging to such a diverse scientific community. In recent years three of our faculty have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, for work done here, and a recent major review of the Department concluded that it is among "the best departments in the nation of a similar scope and type." Among the criteria used to make this assessment were quality of publications and quality of graduate students. Work in the Department is supported by more than $10 million per year in external funding.
The facilities and other resources available to members of the Department are outstanding. Individual laboratories are well equipped, and the long list of general facilities includes animal care, greenhouses, an experimental garden, electron microscopes, oligonucleotide synthesizers, mass spectrometers devoted to the analysis of stable isotopes, and networked mini-and micro-computers with extensive research software including sequence databases, bibliographic databases, and mathematical, statistical, and phylogenetic analysis packages. Additional facilities for molecular biology and biochemistry are available in the School of Medicine, as is the Eccles Library of Medicine. The nearby Utah Museum of Natural History houses the state herbarium and some other notable regional collections (especially of mammals and fossils). Immediately adjacent to campus is the nearly pristine 6,000 acre Red Butte Canyon Research Natural Area. Utah State University is in Logan, a 90-minute drive to the north, and Brigham Young University is in Provo, a 50-minute drive to the south. Both are full of biological colleagues and other valuable resources.
Also a great cultural and recreational environment. Salt Lake City is a cosmopolitan center of more than half a million people, located in the heart of the intermountain west. The city supports a distinguished symphony, an opera company, three award-winning dance companies, numerous theater groups, an arts festival, a jazz festival, and of course the Sundance Film Festival. A great diversity of languages and religions from all over the world are alive and well here. Eating out is easy and rewarding: there are many fine and affordable restaurants representing a huge diversity of tastes and national cuisines. And yes you can get a drink, both in the restaurants (most of them) and a diversity of clubs, bars and brew pubs. There are also several professional sports teams, including the Utah Jazz (NBA), the Salt Lake Bees (AAA baseball), and Real Salt Lake (Major League Soccer).
Outside the city proper, mountain and desert areas are close at hand providing opportunity for all kinds of outdoor recreational activities. The University is located at the base of the Wasatch mountains, which provide superb terrain for back-country and resort skiing in the winter and for hiking and mountain biking in the summer. Utah is home to five national parks and several wilderness areas, which are ideal for backpacking, river-running, fishing, climbing, and hiking. Of course you'll be working too hard to make much use of these wonderful opportunities, but it's nice to know they're there should you ever need them, and your friends will be sick with envy.