Research Assistantships Information

GSR funds are provided to the Department of Plant Sciences by UC ANR from the McDonald and other Endowments. The funds are aimed at supporting graduate student researchers who do work that improves the state of California agriculture or environment.

The Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California, Davis, awards approximately 10 new Graduate Student Research Assistantship (GSR) Awards on an annual basis. For students pursuing a Master’s Degree, the award is for a maximum of two years’ funding; for students who pursue a PhD degree, the award is for a maximum of four years’ funding (PhDs may use this funding until the end of their sixth year; Masters students may use the funding until the end of their third year).  Students changing from MS to PhD need to reapply for the GSR in order to get the additional two years’ funding.  In addition to a monthly stipend, the Graduate Student Research Assistantship Award covers in- and out-of-state tuition and fees; the cost is shared by the Department and the student’s Major Professor. Prospective graduate students who have applied to UC Davis and current UCD graduate students can apply for a Departmental GSR Award.

Areas of research emphasis in the Department of Plant Sciences include but are not limited to: agroecology, plant breeding, plant genetics and genomics, plant-microbial interactions, plant physiology, ecosystem management, restoration ecology, plant biochemistry, post-harvest physiology, urban ecology, and weed science.

In addition, Graduate Students who have a focus on extension and UC-wide collaborative applied research may be given Departmental GSR awards in support of research focusing on the Agricultural and Natural Resources of California. Thus, students working with Major Professors who are Cooperative Extension Specialists are particularly encouraged to apply. A number of the GSRs each year will be dedicated to these students.

The awards are also aimed at supporting collaborative research between UC Davis and researchers UC-wide, such as UC ANR and UC Berkeley or Riverside. If a student has a defined substantial collaboration, such as a Thesis/Dissertation Committee member or routine collaborator being from one of these institutions, then they are eligible for Collaborative Research GSRs. These students must maintain the collaboration during the period they are supported by the GSR. For Collaborative Research GSRs, the student must indicate this on the online application form and describe the nature of the collaboration.

Minimum Qualifications/Requirements to be Eligible

  • Candidates must be accepted by a graduate group/program by the Fall Quarter of the year of application and have been accepted by a Major Professor. (Applying for admission is a separate process.)
  • Only graduate students whose Major Professor is a member of the Department of Plant Sciences are eligible for a Departmental GSR Award. If the student will be co-supervised by two Major Professors, at least one Major Professor must be a member of the Department of Plant Sciences.
  • Only graduate students who conduct research to fulfill the requirements for a thesis (MS Plan I) or dissertation (PhD) qualify for a Departmental GSR Award.
  • Minimum GPA of 3.4 (undergraduate record) or 3.5 (graduate record). If a student has a lower GPA, but feels that there are circumstances that warrant the application being evaluated, then they should submit an application and motivate for an exception in their CV. Examples might include mature students whose past GPA is unrepresentative of their current CV; or students whose low GPA reflects personal or other difficulties during undergraduate degrees. Students with grades in non 4.0 GPA systems will be evaluated as best as possible.
  • Deadline to submit the completed GSR Award application packet is March 15th. The letter of reference and the Major Professor statement are also due by this date.
  • Applicants will be notified of the results in early April.
  • Awards for successful applicants will begin in Fall.

Application materials to be submitted

Prospective students:

  • On-line application form; on the form, you will need to:
    • Indicate if you are a
      • prospective student (planning to start as a UC Davis grad student this Fall);
      • first-year UC Davis graduate student (currently); or
      • continuing student (have been in a UC Davis graduate program for a year or more)
    • Select if your proposed or current research is Collaborative Research; if so, please provide details in the Candidate Statement. 
  • Candidate Statement: The statement must include the following sections combined in one document:
    • 1 page section titled: “Past Experience and Vision for Future Career”
    • 1 page section titled: “Proposed or Current Research”. This statement should detail hypotheses and objectives, and include evidence of current research progress if a continuing student; examples are presentations at conferences, posters or papers published. Concepts within the proposal can (and probably should be) discussed with your prospective Major Professor, but the writing of the proposal should be your own work.
    • a further 1 page section should include:
      • A reference list
      • Relevant figures
      • Optional: a heading “Collaborative Research” detailing proposed or current collaborative nature of their research, including names and positions of collaborators. These should be limited to students at UC Davis with active collaborations with researchers UC-wide, such as UC ANR and UC Berkeley or Riverside (see below for more details).
  • Format: The statement should be written in a font no smaller than 10 pt, line spacing no less than single spaced, margins should be at least 1 inch.

  • Resume or CV: Can include, but is not limited to, scholarly papers and reports, honors and citations, grants, and previous graduate degrees.
  • Statement from prospective Major Professor: You will need to enter the name and e-mail address of your Major Professor (MP) in the on-line application. They will be emailed requesting a brief statement indicating that he/she has agreed to serve as your MP and understands the cost-sharing involved in this award.
  • Letter of reference: You will need to enter the name and e-mail address of your recommender in the on-line application, and an e-mail will be sent to him/her with instructions on uploading the letter. This letter should be provided by a past academic/ research mentor from your previous university or an employer, unless you have worked for a number of months with your prospective MP and feel he/she knows you well enough to provide this letter.
  • Undergraduate and any graduate transcripts: These should be scanned and uploaded with your on-line application. 

Current UC Davis graduate students:

Continuing UC Davis graduate students need to submit the same materials as prospective students, with the following differences:

  • Letter of reference: The letter of reference needs to be submitted by your Major Professor. You will need to enter the name and e-mail address of your Major Professor in the Reference section of the on-line application, and an e-mail will be sent to him/her with instructions on uploading the letter.  If you have co-Major Professors, either can provide the letter, or they can write a joint letter, but only one letter will be accepted per applicant.
  • Undergraduate and graduate transcripts:  You do not need to submit a transcript for your UCD graduate work; it will be provided separately.  If you are a first-year UCD graduate student, you must scan and upload your undergraduate transcripts.  If you have been in a UCD graduate program for more than a year, but want your undergraduate transcripts considered, you should scan and upload them with your on-line application.
  • Evidence of research progress: Students who have been graduate students at UC Davis for at least a year at the time of application must detail their research progress in the “Proposed or Current Research” section of the Candidate Statement. This should include a paragraph on your research progress to date and current or expected results. It can also list publications, presentations, posters, grants obtained, evidence of outreach activities, TAships, etc., undertaken at UC Davis.  It is understood that many continuing students may not have publications, thus progress can focus on highlights of research progress so far.

Potential for research accomplishment is ultimately the most important factor in choosing successful candidates. Students contemplating application for departmental support should prepare their candidate statements carefully with this objective in mind.

GSRs for Collaborative Research:

A number of GSRs will be awarded for Collaborative Research involving a student at UC Davis and researchers UC-wide, such as UC ANR and UC Berkeley or Riverside. These students will be evaluated annually to assess the substantive nature of the collaboration with non-UC Davis partners. Evidence of collaboration would typically include co-authorship, dissertation committee members, people who have active sharing of resources, equipment, expertise, and plant material. If the collaboration is no longer substantive, the student/major professor will be made aware of this, and if not improved the award may be removed.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion award:

One GSR each year will be awarded to a student specifically to recognize their potential or achievements in broadly supporting the Department’s commitment to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. This award is based on review of the entire application, and will be awarded to recognize: a) past and potential future personal contributions to DEI -- the student’s capacity to broaden our Department by bringing with them perspectives and experiences that are under-represented in the Plant Sciences; and/or b) past and potential future research contributions to DEI -- the student’s current or proposed research includes collaborative engagement with non-University groups that our Department has traditionally lacked engagement with (including but not limited to tribes, farm workers, and economically struggling communities in rural and urban areas). Students who choose to be considered for this award will write a short statement describing how they and their research meet these criteria. Please note that students who receive this award will NOT be subject to any additional review or reporting requirements; once awarded, this GSR is like any other Department GSR.

It is very important to be aware that the application for admission to a graduate group/program is separate from the application for a Graduate Student Research Assistantship Award in the Department of Plant Sciences. Application deadlines vary for different graduate programs, so be sure to check your graduate program's website for their admissions application deadline.

If you have any questions, please contact Lisa Brown (530-752-7738) for further information.