Professor Mayden is not only Professor of Biology at SLU but also holds the William S. Barnickle Endowed Chair of Research in Natural Sciences.  He believes very strongly that involvement in laboratory or field research is invaluable for the success of a student in academics and general discipline in life.  Annually, Dr. Mayden has many High School, Undergraduate, and Graduate students applying for and involved in the W. S. Barnickle Internships in Natural Sciences.  Students are active year round, not just summers, and pursue a variety of topics in five main areas.  More detailed information can be obtained by discussing a topic with Dr. Mayden who can be reached at

1. Some students pursue research related to evolution, systematics, behavior, reproduction, ecology, biogeography, sampling, bioinformatics, and conservation of fishes. 

2. Some students are involved in developing webpages, programming, algorithm development, and bioinformatics and coding that facilitate a variety of research areas. 

3. Some, with experience in GIS work with generating maps, graphing relationships between distributions of species and biotic and abiotic factors, and predicting species distributions today and in the future (with climate change)

4. Some students with stronger backgrounds in biochemistry and chemistry are interested in DNA sequences and protein folding and examining the possible influences of the protein folding on constraints in DNA variation and resulting impact on reconstruction of evolutionary relationships from DNA sequence data from protein-coding genes.

5. Finally, some students are attracted to opportunities to explore and enhance their abilities in filming, direction and production of documentary films in natural history of fishes, the relationship between humans/society and the environment, species, and conservation, and sustainability. 

The Internships are available to students in Biology, Mathematics, Computer Sciences, Art, Film, Chemistry, and Biochemistry, as well as students from other departments at the discretion of Dr. Mayden. Summer internships are available High School Students and Teachers.

Students are active throughout the year and pursue a variety of topics that generally involve the biology, evolution, geography, behavior, conservation, systematics, taxonomy, or molecular aspects of freshwater fishes. Some students bring topics with them into the internship program and others participate in ongoing project.  Some students are able to finance their own research while others are only able to work within the budget that is available in Mayden’s laboratory.  To date, Mayden has had over 60 students in the W. S. Barnickle Internship program, many of which have left with peer-reviewed publications or are involved in one that is published months later after their departure.  Most of those students that have pursued research as an intern in this prestigious program have gone on to pursue advanced degrees in graduate student program at SLU or other institutions in biology, evolution, systematics, taxonomy conservation science, informatics, and programming and data analysis.  Ultimately, most have been successfully employed in Higher Education, K-12 Education, Government Positions (USGS, USFWS, USFS), Private Environmental Consulting Companies, biologists for corporations, technical computer fields, and human related health professions from nursing, nurses assistants, to Dentistry, Human Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine. 

Dr. Mayden is totally committed to research and teaching the younger generation where his efforts will have the greatest impacts for the future of our planet.  He holds the philosophy that these students can then carry the education from their classes and this internship to other people they meet in their own careers to again consider our daily activities and their impacts on the planet and its inhabitants – not just humans!  Through this fundamental exposure to research providing stimuli to their visual, audio, and tactile senses on a variety of topics ongoing in the lab.  He is convinced that only through exercises like this and interactions with others with similar interests will a student fully blossom and develop their passion in life either in this or another area yet to be explored – however, this is truly part of the decision process that we all use.

A research internship is one of the most important things you can do as a student.  Mayden’s academic career was initiated with his own involvement in undergraduate research at the University of Illinois. During his 25+ years of experience in academics (teaching and research) he has been absolutely committed to providing opportunities to those who have a passion for science and research in his areas of interest and expertise.  As such, he has provided students the opportunity to enhance their academic experience as a William S. Barnickle Natural Sciences Research Intern.  Mayden has a very active laboratory that includes varied research derived primarily from travel and field studies of fishes and aquatic ecosystems around the world.  He endeavors to expose students to this varied research in natural sciences and travel opportunities to some, if not all, of the his interns (depending upon availability of funds, AKA money). 

None of the internships come with any type of support for tuition or fees and not all of the internships come with a salary.  However, they all come with a guaranteed experience in research or a part of the research world that you can experience – the best way to determine if it is an area for your future. 

What are some of the general things that interns can expect to learn during their period as W. S. Barnickle Internship in Natural Sciences?  This depends on the student’s ability and discipline and what may be going on in the laboratory at the time.  Some areas that are highly likely to be a part of the internship (but not all necessarily) include the following:

What is a Biological Species? – Highly important theoretical and metaphysical topics of great importance to the scientific community of the biodiversity sciences

Phylogenetic Systematics Methods – inferences into genealogical relationships of species

Reconstructing the Tree of Life – using phylogenetics to hone in on a particular part of the tree of life to better resolve what are now unknown relationships

Gene Trees versus Species Trees – Is there only one tree of life or do different genes and different homologous morphological traits provide us with different reconstructions of the tree of life and how does this happen?

Taxonomy and Methods of Taxonomy – The essential elements of studies in biodiversity - jump starting your career early as a biodiversity para-taxonomist!

            If you are interested in discussing and/or applying for one of the William S. Barnickle Research Internships you may contact Dr. Mayden at


Fish illustrations by Joseph R. Tomelleri and used with permission.