Research degrees at F&ES
Yale F&ES offers a handful of different types of masters degrees to students seeking to accomplish their academic and professional goals. Two of them, the Masters of Environmental Science (MESc) and the Master of Forest Science (MFS), are similar to typical science degrees that most researchers pursue in order to complete a thesis. For this post, I corresponded with a few first-year science degree-seeking students to understand their experience better, and get a general idea of what a masters of science degree entails here at F&ES.
Many students who are looking to come to F&ES for an MESc or MFS degree tend to ask the same question: why did you choose F&ES over another school?
Paul Burow, a current MESc first-year with a research focus in Native American conservation and land rights issues, explains why the F&ES experience is so unique for science degree-seeking students; “The MESc program is a research-driven program, but it’s not just geared for future academics: it’s an organizing principle for inquiry big questions about how the world works. The school is a unique place to pursue this kind of program because it combines top-notch intellectual resources, available throughout the university, with a strong professional focus. Whether you seek to enter a doctoral program, a research career in the non-profit sector, or work in environmental management, the degree is structured for maximum flexibility to allow students to pursue what they are most passionate about.”
Kelsey Semrod, a first-year MESc biogeochemist studying the effectiveness of green infrastructure in urban settings says that she picked F&ES because of the responsive nature of the professors during the application process. “When I was looking at other programs, I noticed that professors weren’t as quick to respond to emails and phone calls as those working at F&ES. Once I actually arrived on campus, I realized that responsiveness followed through to professors’ teaching and advising styles.”
Some prospective students worry that the professional aspect of the school might hinder their science interests, but Alex T. Jones, a first-year MFS student says that, “the FES research program gives you the flexibility to go through the process of creating your own project from scratch, an opportunity that no other forestry program offers… Coming from straight out of undergrad, I was never given the opportunity to test my own questions, hypotheses, or predictions. I didn’t even know what the difference was between the three. However after [studying here], I will feel prepared to ask my own questions and continue my career as an academic.” Jones researches the affects of temperature and precipitation on the radial growth rates, stomata counts, total leaf area, and δ13C of banj oak over time, and will be collecting samples in the Mussorie Forest in Uttarakhand, India this summer for her thesis.
So, once a student has made the decision to actually come to Yale F&ES, what should s/he do next? Jones recommends taking the Natural Science Research Methods class and the Introduction to Environmental Statistics class, both offered in the fall semester. Both she and Semrod also point out that meeting frequently with advisors and lab mates is a way to ensure success with a thesis project. Semrod also suggests meeting with professors who are not your advisor, but who might have similar interests as you, as they might be able to give you a new perspective on your project.
I think it’s also important to note here that, if you, as a prospective student, are trying to decide between a more professional degree at F&ES (such as the MEM or MF programs) or a science one (the MESc and MFS) you can, once you arrive on campus, switch from one to the other. Furthermore, if you are pursuing an MEM or MF, there is nothing stopping you from completing a more-classic science-type thesis or taking science based courses! F&ES supports approaching environmental challenges from many different areas of focus, and encourages students to take classes to learn skills or an understanding that they might lack.