Alumni spotlight

Casey Youngflesh graduated with a Ph.D. in Fall 2018

What is your current job? What are your responsibilities?

I am currently a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles. I am currently working on an NSF-funded project focused on understanding how migratory bird phenology (namely, the timing of bird migration and breeding) is changing across North America and what the demographic consequences of these changes are. I am integrating a variety of large-scale datasets to address these questions using spatio-temporal Bayesian models.

What’s the best part about your current job?

The best part about my current job is the freedom I have to explore the data I’m working with. There are overarching questions that we are interested in as a research team, but there are many ways to approach these problems and many stories to be uncovered. I enjoy the challenges that addressing these ecological questions present and I find the work rewarding, in that it has real implications for how we understand the natural world.

What skills learned in graduate school have come to be the most useful in your current position?

The majority of my work hours are occupied with coding and statistical modeling. Training during graduate school laid the foundations for these skills and has provided me with a large set of tools to apply to the problems at hand. Project management and communication skills (be that written, spoken, or visual communication) have also been incredibly important.

What was something that you worried a lot about in graduate school but, in hind sight, probably shouldn’t have?

I think it’s important to understand that nothing is ever going to be perfect. It’s easy to sink large amounts of time into things that were just fine as they were. It can be challenging to know where that point is, though, and something that, perhaps, only comes with experience.

What was something that you think, in hind sight, you should have worried about more?

I think starting fewer projects and finishing them before defending my PhD may have been helpful. That said, I enjoy the diversity of projects that I’ve worked on and feel that, in the long-term, these will work to my benefit.

Anything words of wisdom for a current or potential graduate student in the lab?

A PhD is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s important to enjoy what you’re working on but also to find work-life balance. Different strategies will work for different people in this regard and it’s important to find what works for you.

I would also recommend setting clear, measurable long-term goals (and to reevaluate these on a regular basis). Use these to help guide more short-term goals and prioritize activities.

Nicole DiNome (formerly Nicole Bender) graduated with an M.A. in Summer 2016

What is your current job? What are your responsibilities?

I am the Senior Conservation Educator of School Programs at the Bronx Zoo. My responsibilities include, but are not limited to, leading a team of educators on all School Program projects, teaching individuals of all ages about wildlife and conservation, handling ambassador animals to show during educational programs, and serve as a liaison between the Bronx Zoo Education Department and local schools.

What’s the best part about your current job?

I love that I get to work with people and animals! I have always loved animals and teaching so being able to combine these two passions has been wonderful!

What skills learned in graduate school have come to be the most useful in your current position?

While in the Lynch Lab I had the incredible opportunity to conduct fieldwork in Antarctica on commercial cruise ships. This experience was imperative to my success in my job because it made me comfortable talking to people of all ages, from different countries, and various economic backgrounds. I use this skill everyday while teaching and interacting with the public at the Bronx Zoo.

What was something that you worried a lot about in graduate school but, in hind sight, probably shouldn’t have?

I worried a lot about my grades. Of course, students should do their best in all their classes, but future employers are more interested in if you went to graduate school and less worried about your GPA while you were there.

What was something that you think, in hind sight, you should have worried about more?

I wish I focused more on figuring out what type of job I wanted after graduate school earlier. Once you have a goal in mind it’s much easier to seek out and take advantage of all of the opportunities offered during graduate school.

Anything words of wisdom for a current or potential graduate student in the lab?

Get involved! Don’t let opportunities pass you by because everything you try will teach you something and that will help you carve your pathway in life.