C. Shawn Green – Information For Prospective Graduate Students

Dr. C. Shawn Green – Information for Prospective Graduate Students

Website: https://greenlab.psych.wisc.edu/

Current research: My lab website and publications do a good job of capturing the big-picture questions my lab is interested in exploring.  Generally speaking, we’re interested in what factors, both within-individuals and within-learning-experiences, impact how quickly people learn new tasks, their asymptotic level of performance on tasks, and probably most importantly, whether learning on one task generalizes to new tasks.  Most of my work is situated in the perceptual and cognitive learning domains, employing a mixture of classic psychophysics and standard cognitive training protocols, as well as more modern forms of media (e.g., video games, virtual reality).  However, given that our interests are in *general* learning principles, we often work in other learning domains as well (e.g., two current graduate students work in more educational domains, we have active projects on motor learning, etc.).

Communication Prior to Applying: It is my lab’s general policy to not have video calls/meetings with prospective students prior to the application process. I also don’t privilege or prioritize applications from prospective students who have contacted me prior to applying. This is for reasons of fairness – in particular, to ensure that I’m able to read every application that I receive with an open mind and from the same initial starting point.  That said, if there are questions about my research or lab that you have that would be helpful to have answered as you prepare your application, I’m certainly happy to answer them. Just send me an email.  If there are questions that I can’t answer via email, then we can set up a time to chat further via video call.  And if you have questions about completing/submitting the UW Madison Psychology Department application itself, the best person to contact is our graduate coordinator, kbelt@psych.wisc.edu

Areas I’m Willing to Advise Students in: I’m happy to advise students in cognitive/cognitive neuroscience or perception.  If students are interested in topics that dovetail strongly with other areas in psychology (e.g., social, developmental, clinical, or educational psychology), I would want the student to have a co-mentor in those areas.  As such, if your interests would link between those of my lab and topics in social, developmental, clinical, or educational psychology, I would highly suggest reaching out to me before applying to determine if a possible co-mentoring situation is feasible (these are absolutely possible – actually I very much enjoy co-mentoring situations – but they do require that both myself and another relevant faculty member be willing to take on the same student).

How I Evaluate Applicants:

Like all faculty members in the Psychology Department, I evaluate prospective graduate students in a holistic manner. I therefore consider all the possible ways in which students’ applications materials can demonstrate excellence and a strong likelihood to thrive in the graduate program and in my lab.  As such, the information below should be treated as general rules of thumb rather than a highly proscriptive “checklist” of attributes that candidates must have in order to be considered for admittance to my lab.

  • Academic preparation: Successful applicants to my lab typically have a strong academic record. And while I don’t employ any formal cutoff for GPA given the massive differences that exist across universities, programs of study, etc., I do evaluate the extent to which prospective students have shown excellence in the classroom. Furthermore, because my lab uses tools/takes inspiration from a host of disciplines outside of psychology, in addition to evaluating psychology coursework (e.g., cognitive psychology, perceptual psychology, research methods, statistics), I also look carefully at prospective students’ record of coursework in the natural sciences (e.g., chemistry, organic chemistry, physics), biological sciences (e.g., biology, genetics), mathematics (e.g., calculus, linear algebra, etc.), and computer sciences (e.g., data programming, data modeling). I don’t expect any students to have taken nearly all of the courses listed above. However, students who have taken and done well in such courses are often more competitive than students who have not.
  • Research preparation: Nearly all successful applicants to my lab have had previous research experience – for example, as a research assistant in a psychology lab (or a related field). More competitive applicants have typically also conducted some type of independent research, whether a senior thesis, a summer independent research project, etc.
  • Motivation/drive: Not every student has the same opportunities for coursework or research experience. As such, I also weight the extent to which applicants have sought out opportunities and taken advantage of opportunities available to them. For instance, some prospective students may have attended undergraduate institutions with limited research experience opportunities. If such a student then sought out other opportunities to engage in research (e.g., summer research experience programs, etc.), this would demonstrate a commitment to growing their capacity to conduct research.
  • Personal statement: One primary thing I’m looking for in personal statement is motivation to conduct research in my lab specifically. What things do you love about psychology? What things motivate you? What questions would you love to address? And how do these all align with what my lab does?  Another thing I look for is information about how your own unique experiences and background have shaped you as a person and how these in turn have resulted in skills/abilities and/or have motivated your decision to pursue a graduate degree in my lab. Finally, I make every effort to create a tight-knit and supportive lab environment where every lab member feels that they belong, and that their abilities and efforts are respected and nurtured by every other lab member.  As such, insights into your potential to contribute to such a community and to collaborate effectively would be valued in the personal statement.