Student Handbook

Lab Rotation

Laboratory rotations can be a very effective way for new graduate students to get acquainted with faculty members and their co-workers. They provide an opportunity for graduate students to explore in some depth areas they are considering for their Ph.D. thesis research. In addition, they allow both graduate students and faculty to test out possible working relationships. All first year students are expected to have been accepted into a lab by August 15, i.e. by one year after they have enrolled. They may not continue rotations beyond that time.

Recommended Rotation Periods:

First rotation: mid-October through December
Second rotation: early January to early-March
Third rotation. early-March to early-May

Each rotation should be ~8 weeks in length. The exact time is flexible and can be worked out between the faculty and the student. All three rotations should be carried out with full or provisional GGD Field members. At the end of each rotation, the supervising faculty member prepares a written evaluation that is informally discussed with the student. Both the student and faculty are asked to sign the evaluation form, which is then returned to the Graduate Field Assistant.

How to arrange for laboratory rotations?

Before arriving on campus, incoming first year students will be informed by the DGS of the BioMG7800 Grant Proposal Writing Course that they are required to take during their first semester. Students will also be informed that their first rotation mentor will serve as the proposal-writing mentor, and will be provided with a list of faculty who plan to take rotation students that year and are willing to take rotation students during the first rotation period. Students will be asked to research the field website to find possible first rotation mentors that they can either contact before their arrive, or talk to right after they arrive, on campus. The goal is to ensure that each student finds a mentor right away so that he/she can work with the mentor on the ideas of the proposal for BioMG7800 Grant Proposal writing course. We make every effort to assign each student to their first choice of proposal-writing mentor, but this is not always possible because several students (including students from other fields besides GGD) may select the same faculty member and each faculty is usually willing to supervise one student with the proposal writing.

The official start date of the first rotation is mid October. However, if a student is interested in starting the first rotation earlier, he/she is allowed to. On the other hand, if during the course of proposal writing, a student decides not to rotate in the lab that he/she initially planned to, as long as the mentor is given ample advance notice and it's not after the official start date of the first rotation, the student can choose a different lab to do his/her first rotation.

While the first rotation mentor is decided early, the students will have an opportunity via attending rotation talks to choose their second and third (and possibly first) rotation labs. Early in the Fall semester, all faculty interested in hosting rotation students will give a short talk describing his/her research. All first year students are expected to attend these talks. Following these talks, students determine which research projects they find most interesting and then contact the faculty members to set up meetings to discuss the possibility of doing rotations. Faculty may review previous rotation evaluations to help them make a decision. Once an agreement is reached, students inform the DGS and the Graduate Field Assistant (GFA) of where they will be rotating.

Usually, by the end of the third rotation, students will have discussed with the rotation faculty about the possibility of joining a laboratory for thesis research. Please note that faculty may not commit to accepting a student into their lab for thesis research until the end of the third rotation (usually early May). This is designed to ensure all students have the fair chance of completing their third rotation periods, before faculty make their final decisions. However, students are encouraged to have clear and honest discussion with interested faculty about the possibility of joining their labs ahead of time, so as to gauge the likelihood of joining a particular lab, and whether a summer rotation/rotations will be necessary. Students who want to initiate a fourth rotation in the summer months should consult with the DGS.

What is expected of a graduate student on rotation?

While no one objects to a graduate student completing a project and writing a paper for publication during a rotation, no one expects it either! What is expected is self-motivated earnest effort, independent thinking, and the fullest participation possible in the intellectual life of the laboratory. If, either before or early during a rotation, a graduate student finds that his/her interests have changed dramatically, he/she should not feel trapped, but rather try to arrange a new rotation elsewhere.