Join the Lab

Lab now in Coker Hall

Mission Statement

In our lab group we are committed to creating and maintaining a welcoming, diverse, and equitable workplace and learning environment. Our goals include advancing our scientific understanding of environmental adaptation and the speciation process, training future generations of scientists and scientifically literate citizens, and providing valuable outreach to the broader community. We seek to encourage the participation of people from a diverse set of backgrounds and life experiences and students and researchers from groups that were previously under-represented in evolutionary, genetics, and physiological research (including African-Americans, Indigenous people, LGBTQ individuals, and other people of color). We hope to get everyone excited and interested in biological research and caterpillars and copepods of course!

Prospective Graduate Students

Interested graduate students are encouraged to explore potential opportunities for study in the Willett Lab. Students with interests in the following types of questions would fit well:


-What are the types of genetic changes that underlie speciation and adaptation?

-Using next generation sequencing to study the processes of speciation and adaptation.

-Can we detect the action of natural selection upon specific genes or proteins?

-What is the molecular basis of physiological adaptation to important environmental conditions and how does this evolve between populations?

-How will organisms respond to climate change and can evolutionary adaptation help them to persist in the face of changing environments?

-How do inbreeding and outbreeding depression interact to determine fitness of hybrids?

-Can we infer the history of populations from patterns of variation in sequence data?


How to apply


If you think you might be interested please contact C. Willett via email with any questions that you might have. If you provide a brief description of your research interests, your research experience, and a resume or CV I will be able to better answer your questions.


There are two different routes by which graduate students can enter the Willett lab via the Biology Graduate Programs. Please talk to C. Willett and other faculty you may be interested in working with about which route would be most appropriate for you.


The first route would be for students who would like to directly enter the Willett lab without rotations during their first year of graduate school. You would enter directly into the Department of Biology via the Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology Program (EEOB). To follow this route, contact C. Willett as described above and then apply directly to the EEOB program (link on how to apply). Additional questions about applying to directly to Biology can also be answered by Kenlyn Merritt.


The second route would be for students who are interested in rotating through several laboratories at UNC during there first year of graduate school. The Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program (BBSP) is an umbrella program for first year graduate students covering most laboratories involved in biology-related research. Students admitted into this program can rotate in any labs that are part of this program (including many Biology labs). Here is a brief description of the BBSP program, its connection to graduate studies in Biology at UNC, and how to apply to the BBSP program.


Rotation Students


Graduate students currently at UNC in the Biology Department or BBSP program are encouraged to discuss possible rotation times and projects with C. Willett.

Opportunities for Undergraduate Students

Undergraduates play an important role in the research conducted in the Willett lab through independent research, research assistants, and work study positions.


Independent Research: Students interested in independent research have generally enrolled in one of the research for credit courses (BIOL 395). Please contact C. Willett well in advance of the semester you would like to conduct research to determine if it would be feasible for that particular semester. Independent research should relate to the general research interests of the lab and will be a distinct project or projects.


Research Assistants: A limited number of paid positions are generally available in both the academic year and summer. Students in these positions are involved in research but not necessarily with a distinct project of their own. Recently most of the work of these students has focused on experiments with the copepods themselves but some molecular work is also possible as well. If interested send an email to C. Willett with a brief description of your background and reasons why you are interested in conducting research in our laboratory.


Work study students are welcome to contact C. Willett as well about available positions in our laboratory. These positions are structured like the research assistant positions described above.

Prospective Postdoctoral Candidates

Interested candidates should contact C. Willett about postdoctoral study in the laboratory. Although funding is not available directly from the lab at the current time, there are postdoctoral programs at UNC that may be appropriate depending on your career plans (e.g. SPIRE). Alternatively, other funding possibilities such as grants through NIH or NSF are possible depending upon your research interests.




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