Dr. Nelson plans to admit a new graduate student for the Fall 2023 semester pending approval of funding.

Graduate Student Applicant Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Thank you for considering Stony Brook University for graduate school and me as a potential mentor! I am very dedicated to mentorship, teaching, and training, and I aim to be as transparent as possible in the application process. Below are some of the most common questions I receive from prospective graduate students. The answers provided are specific to me as a mentor and my lab and might differ from other faculty in the department. I am very lucky to receive a large number of email inquiries from prospective graduate students each summer/fall. Because of the large number of emails, I am not able to hold individual phone/video calls prior to the application deadline.
Will you be accepting a new PhD student to begin in Fall 2023?
I plan to admit a new graduate student for the Fall 2023 semester pending approval of funding.

Do you only accept clinical psychology graduate students?
No. I primarily accept clinical psychology graduate students, but I also accept students in other areas for which I could be an appropriate mentor (e.g., Integrative Neuroscience). My ability to accept students from other (non-clinical) areas is dependent on the recruitment needs of those areas and my ability to mentor the student.
Should I email you to express my interest in applying to your lab?
Your decision to email me (or not) will have no impact on your likelihood of receiving an interview invitation or an offer of admission. I try my best to answer emails from prospective students if there are specific questions that are not answered on my lab website, but I unfortunately do not have time to provide individualized responses to all applicants.

What would make me a competitive graduate student applicant to your lab?
I am most interested in the goodness of fit between your research interests, experiences, and training goals, and my research program and strengths/weaknesses as a mentor. Below are some research interests that would make an applicant a good fit (Please note: you do not need to have ALL of these interests)

Affective/cognitive neuroscience. I use a multi-method approach, which includes electroencephalography (EEG), event-related potentials (ERPs), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), heart rate variability (HRV), and startle electromyography (EMG). I use EEG/ERPs in most (but not all) of my research studies. I occasionally use fMRI, but this is not one of my main methodological tools. If your primary methodological interest is fMRI, then I am not your ideal graduate mentor.

Mechanisms and risk for psychopathology. I primarily conduct research on internalizing psychopathology (e.g., anxiety disorders, depression), but I also assess other psychopathology spectra (e.g., externalizing disorders, thought disorders). I currently do not conduct intervention or treatment research, except in collaboration with other faculty in the department.

Impact of development and the environment on mechanisms and risk for psychopathology. I am not a developmental psychologist, but much of my research focuses on childhood and adolescence because they are critical periods for the developmental of key neural systems that are implicated in the emergence of psychopathology.

Basic science research. I am also interested in non-clinical, basic science research (e.g., experimental task development, evaluation of psychometric properties of neuroscience measures).

Finally, I think it is also important to note: I do not look for applicants who have backgrounds, experiences, and interests just like me. I value collaboration, diversity, and innovation. While there needs to be some degree over overlap in research interests, your training goals/my mentorship abilities, and the opportunities/resources available in my lab, I am excited to recruit prospective students who have bring new ideas and perspectives to my lab and the field.

Do I need to have neuroscience/psychophysiology experience to get into your lab? Does it have to be with EEG/ERPs?
I prioritize applicants who have at least some human neuroscience/psychophysiology research experience or training, but it does not have to be with EEG/ERPs. Affective/cognitive neuroscience research is quite complex and I want to make sure an incoming graduate student has at least some previous experience in this field, but I do not expect the individual to have already mastered a particular methodology. That being said, almost all (if not all) applicants that I have interviewed over the last 5 years have had at least 1-2 years of  neuroscience/psychophysiology research experience. If you have had less than 1 year (or it has has been a more minor aspect) of neuroscience/psychophysiology research experience, you are less likely to be a competitive graduate student applicant in my lab.

Do I need to know about and have read all of your research before I apply?
Absolutely not. I would recommend that applicants read and be able to discuss 1-2 papers (so we can have more detailed discussions about research), but I do not expect you to be an expert in any area of inquiry.

My undergraduate GPA is below 3.5. Will this remove me from consideration?
No. Many factors can influence GPA, including competing commitments (e.g., working part-time while in school), family obligations, and health challenges. Academic achievement is very important, but context is, too. If you believe your GPA does not reflect your potential as a future scientist, please (1) ask one of your recommenders to share more about your circumstances to help me holistically assess your achievements, or (2) provide this information in your personal statement.

My GRE scores are low. Will this remove me from consideration?
The GRE will be waived for the Fall 2023 admission cycle. Stony Brook’s clinical psychology doctoral program will not consider or accept scores from any applicant.

What should I include in my personal statement?
I find it helpful when applicants include the following in their personal statements:

  1. A clear statement of your general research interests and how they relate to our lab’s mission and work
  2. A clear statement of why you are interested in our lab
  3. A statement about your career goals (even if they are approximate/might change, it is helpful to see your thinking)
  4. Discussions of your independent research experience(s) and what you learned from them. In these discussions, I suggest emphasizing (1) the skills you developed from working on each project (e.g., coding/running analyses; collecting and processing neuroscience/psychophysiology data; interviewing children/families; writing certain sections of a paper; submitting/presenting a poster), and (2) what your “takeaways” were from the project (e.g., new research ideas or questions your work inspired).

Is it advantageous to list multiple mentors of interest (or just one) on my application?
There is no advantage to naming multiple mentors of interest on your application. I review all applications on which I am listed as a first-choice mentor. In many cases, applicants to my lab do not list multiple mentors of interest. Listing multiple potential mentors may be appropriate if your interests and goals clearly bridge two faculty members’ research programs (as described in your personal statement)—and in rare cases, co-mentorship by two faculty members in the clinical area is possible.

Is there any financial assistance for the application fee?
Applicants who meet any of the following criteria are eligible for an application fee waiver through our graduate school:

  • Applicants who re-apply for admission within one academic year of declining an official offer of admission.
  • Students who are U.S. citizens and have current documentation from a financial aid administrator of an appropriate college or university official substantiating that they are currently enrolled and that the payment of the application would create a financial hardship (complete financial information for the current academic year must be provided, including total cost of education and amount and types of financial aid received). To qualify, applicants must request a waiver from the Graduate School Admissions Office before they submit their application for admission and should include the necessary documentation listed above.
  • Current students who have a fellowship/scholarship through EOP, HEOP, SEEK, McNair, Project 1000, AGEP, CSTEP, LSAMP, and AMSNY. To qualify, applicants must have a letter or email from the appropriate agency sent to the Graduate School Admissions Office.
  • Veterans of the United States Military Service, currently on Active Duty of members of the National Guard or Reserves are exempt from paying the graduate application fee. NOTE: Before fee waiver is applied, veterans must be vetted through the Office of Veteran Affairs at Stony Brook University.

Appropriate supporting documentation for the application fee waiver can be emailed to gradadmissions@stonybrook.edu (Graduate School) or spd@stonybrook.edu (School of Professional Development). Once the admissions office receives the appropriate documents, the fee will be waived for the applicant so they may submit their online application without paying. Application fees cannot be refunded so do not submit and pay the fee if you are requesting a waiver. Please allow 5 business days for the application fee to be waived.

If I receive an interview offer, how much will it cost to complete the in-person interview?
The Stony Brook University Clinical Psychology faculty have unanimously voted to hold Ph.D. student interview days remotely for the 2022-2023 admissions cycle. Applicants residing locally will not be permitted to interview in-person. After receiving an offer, admitted applicants will have the option (but will not be required) to schedule an on-campus visit to aid their decision-making process.