Dear Prospective Graduate Students,

First of all, I thank you for your interest in my research, and the Ph.D. program of Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

My research interest spans from root-soil interactions to the effects of global change factors (e.g., elevated CO2, nitrogen deposition, and global warming) on belowground processes, and to global patterns of social-ecological entanglement (e.g., biospheric carrying capacity and ecological foundation of human societies). My lab group engages in research on ecological processes at varying scales from the rhizosphere to the landscape. These processes are integral components in carbon and nitrogen dynamics (e.g., production, respiration, root exudation, root turnover, decomposition, and nitrogen fixation). Our current research projects are taking advantage of recently developed methods such as stable isotope tracing/labeling and rhizosphere imaging. You can find virtually all my publications using google scholar search.

The Ph.D. program in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz is interdisciplinary by design and in practice. Students applying to this program are expected to have completed courses in ecology, economics, policy, and statistics. Courses and experience in plant and soil sciences are highly desirable if you want to work with me. If you want to apply to the Ph.D. program in Environmental Studies at UCSC under my sponsorship, I will appreciate that you first send me an e-mail ( covering: (1) your academic background (unofficial transcripts, GPA, GRE/TOEFL scores (if available)), and work/research experience; (2) questions or hypotheses you plan to address in your dissertation research; (3) your ultimate career goals; and (4) what attract you to the Environmental Studies Program at UCSC and to my lab group.

I expect to admit 1-2 new Ph.D. students in the coming fall. Lately, we have been awarded a large DOE grant for imaging rhizosphere processes using high energy photons. I would hope that one of my new PhD students would work on this project.

Furthermore, you may contact our graduate coordinator, Amy Kaskowitz-Profitt, <>, if you have more questions about our graduate program.  It is my hope that this letter answers some of your questions regarding your search for a graduate program and a lab group that fits your needs and desire.


Best regards,

Weixin Cheng