Confucius, among the world's greatest major professors, said:
Apprentice scholars cannot but be strong and resolved, for they bear a heavy charge and their way is long. Analects 8.7
The young should be held in high esteem. We know that those yet to come will surpass us. Analects 9.23
Yan Hui is of no use. He always agrees with me. Analects 11.4
I am especially interested in supervising students interested in human cultural evolution or non-human animal social learning. Although most of my work has been theoretical, the theory has opened up any number of exciting empirical problems. For example, a sort of coin-of-the-realm study in evolutionary biology is to estimate the strength of natural selection and other evolutionary processes in the wild. Peter and Rosemary Grant's study of the evolution of the beaks of Galapagos finches is a famous example of this genre. No such studies exist in the case of cultural evolution even though social scientists frequently observe cultural evolution in the "wild" and do have the tools to analyze it quantitatively. My new empirical research interest is on using laboratory and web-based microsocieties to study cultural evolution under more or less controlled condition. We have gotten two different NSF grants to support this work. On the non-human side, theoretical models describe two different types of animal social learning, a quasi-parasitic form in which lazy imitators scrounge upon the exertions of earnest individual learners, and an adaptive system in which individuals mix social and individual learning in such a way that their fitness is increased relative to depending entirely on individual learning. Simple systems of animal social learning have proven to be fairly common, but the fitness consequences of social learning have yet to be worked out for any species. Prospective students should peruse some of my papers and manuscripts for similar ideas. My and coauthor's papers on animal social learning can be found in my complete publication list (see #55, 95, and the 2000 paper with Chou).
I take graduate students through the Graduate Group in Ecology and the Graduate Group in Animal Behavior. I am the advisor for the Human Ecology Area of Emphasis in the GGE. The Ecology Graduate Group's Human Ecology program is ideal for for my students interested in humans because it easily allows students to construct the appropriate interdisciplinary curriculum. The cultural evolution work is relevant to all the human sciences disciplines, but many of the concepts and techniques are best taught in evolutionary biology courses. We can tailor course work to suit students' areas of interest and their thesis project in a way that is difficult in disciplinary programs. Most students take enough course work in their favorite discipline that they can effectively simulate being economists, anthropologists or whatever and thus be attractive job candidates in disciplinary departments. If you have a desire to do cultural evolution but want have a disciplinary graduate degree, contact me for some ad hoc arrangements we might make. For a student interested in non-human animal social learning, the Animal Behavior Graduate Group is probably a better bet. It is a great program!
Most Graduate Students have a good and productive time at Davis. The Grad Studies web page has lots of information helpful to prospective students. The City of Davis has an informative web page. In short, the town is nice and the mountains, the ocean, and San Francisco are close. Campus culture is quite informal in a suitable serious-work sort of way.
Please contact me with questions on any relevant topic!