Positions in the Schnable Lab

Why this lab

Trainees in the Schnable Lab gain domain expertise in plant genetics, comparative genomics, quantitative genetics, and/or high throughput phenotyping. But critically they also learn other things. They learn how to effectively work and collaborate across disciplines (engineering, statistics, applied plant breeding, food science). Many lab members work closely with at least one faculty member a department outside of the biological sciences (statistics, computer science, or engineering). Trainees – from undergrads to postdocs – leave the lab with a combination of deep knowledge in plant genetics and broad knowledge of “data science” relevant fields.

This combination of skillsets makes trainees competitive for future roles in academia, industry or entrepreneurship.


Openings for postdocs without their own funding fluctuate based on the avaliability of grant funds. Interested scientists should e-mail Prof. Schnable. As a signal that you have done your homework investigating the lab before inquiring, please include the phrase “Codeword Pineapple” in the subject line of your e-mail.

Graduate Students

PhDs in the Schnable Lab generally take between 4-6 years to complete depending on a number of factors. This includes 1) how much research can be conducted using existing datasets and how much must be generated from scratch 2) breaks in research including industry internships, maternity/paternity leave 3) student effort 4) luck, whether good or bad.

Masters Student Positions

Students wishing to pursue a MS should apply through the University of Nebraska Department of Agronomy & Horticulture’s MS program with a specialization in Plant Breeding and Genetics.

PhD Student Positions

Students wishing to pursue a PhD can apply through the University of Nebraska’s Complex Biosystems program with a specialization in Integrated Plant Biology. Complex Biosystems has one admission deadline per year on December 15th. This program accepts both students with a BA/BS and those with a MS/MA. Click here for the official Schnable Lab unofficial guide to applying to the Integrated Plant Biology PhD program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Alternatively students can apply to the Department of Agronomy & Horticulture’s PhD program with a specialization in Plant Breeding and Genetics which has rolling admissions throughout the year. While this program is technically open to both students with a Bachelors or Masters degree, we’ve run into some problems with the departmental direct-to-PhD admissions procedure, so I would advise any student interested in working with me who is coming straight out of an undergraduate degree to apply through the Complex Biosystems program if possible.

If you apply to either program and are interesting in working in this lab, it is very important that you send Prof. Schnable an e-mail after you submit to let him know to look for your application in the online system.

If you are interested in discussing the potential to do graduate research in the lab before applying including both potential funding sources and potential research projects you can e-mail Prof. Schnable including the phrase “Codeword Pineapple” in the subject of your e-mail. Read more about ongoing projects in the lab.

Fellowships for Graduate Students

There are a number of relevant graduate fellowships all eligible grad students in the lab are encouraged to apply for including the NSF GRFP, the USDA Predoctorial Fellowship, the FFAR Fellows program, the Water for Food Graduate Support Program. Students with relevant research interests may also be nominated for Nebraska Food for Health Center fellowships which will cover the full cost of their tuition/stipend. Most of these programs only come into play after you become a member of the lab, but applying for the NSF GRFP program the fall before you finish your undergraduate degree substantially increases your odds of success, so don’t hesitate to reach out early to discuss potential research projects you could propose to that program.


The Schnable Lab is always recruiting promising undergraduates who either wish to gain experience in computational or molecular biology techniques working as paid assistants on existing research projects, or who wish to develop and carry out independent research projects within our areas of investigation through the University of Nebraska’s UCARE program.

During the summer the lab also hosts undergraduates through two NSF Research Experience for Undergraduate programs: Bioenergy Systems and Plant and Microbiome. Selection for both of these programs is performed by a committee, but if you are really interested in specifically working in the Schnable Lab, send an e-mail to Professor Schnable after you submit your application talking about why you’d like to work with us, and he can sometimes at least act as an advocate to the selection committees. Be sure to mention “Codeword Sugarcane” in any such e-mail.

An important note to potential postdocs, research technicians, grad students, and undergraduate research assistants: If you receive a competing offer while we are negotiating or waiting for admissions decisions/offer letters to go through, tell me. That fact that you are exploring other options is completely rational and not something I will ever hold against a potential applicant.

If I know, sometimes I can use that information to force the wheels here at Nebraska to turn faster so the applicant will have both official offers in front of them before their deadline to respond to the first one. Sometimes I can even use that information to get support from my administrators for a salary boost or recruitment fellowship. But those things are only possible if I know the applicant has another offer on the table before they’ve already accepted it.