First Year Program
Orientation: Incoming students are required to attend GGD Orientation, which generally takes place the week before classes start. During this time, students will complete required training and paperwork necessary for their program. It is our goal to have administrative requirements completed before the start of classes in order to allow students to concentrate on the academic part of their program.
Included in the mix with administrative requirements and training are activities designed to welcome you into the Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics (MBG) and the Field of GGD. The GGD Graduate Student Association will have social programs for incoming students. The MBG Annual Picnic is held at the beginning of the fall semester and is a good way to meet the students, staff, and faculty in an informal, non-lab setting. The MBG graduate community includes students and faculty from the Fields of Biochemistry, Molecular & Cell Biology (BMCB) and Biophysics.
Rotations: All graduate students in GGD are required to complete three rotations during their first year in the program. Laboratory rotations are a very effective way for new graduate students to get acquainted with faculty and their lab members. 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.
During the first half of the Fall semester, GGD students meet as a group twice a week for Rotation Talks in which GGD faculty who are actively seeking graduate students discuss their research. All first-year students are expected to attend all of these talks.
Before arriving on campus, incoming students will be informed by the DGS of the BIOMG 7800 Grant Proposal Writing Course which is required of first-year GGD students. In most cases, the proposal-writing mentor for that course will served as the student’s first rotation mentor. The DGS will provide students with a list of faculty who are willing to take a GGD student for the first rotation period. Students will be asked to research the field web site to identify possible first-rotation mentors. The goal is too ensure that each student find a mentor right away so that they can work with that mentor on ideas for their BIOMG 7800 grant proposal. The DGS will match students and faculty, making every effort to assign the student their first choice of grant-writing mentor/rotation supervisor. This is not always possible, as several students from the various Fields that the particular faculty is a member of may have selected the same faculty; generally faculty are only willing to supervise one student with the proposal writing.
While the official start date for the first rotation is in mid-October, a student who is interested in starting the rotation earlier is allowed to do so. On the other hand, if, during the course of proposal writing, a students decides not to rotate in the lab that they initially planned to, the student may choose a different lab in which to rotate, provided the previous mentor is given ample advance notice and that the decision is not after the official start date of the first rotation.
While the first rotation mentor is decided early, students will have the opportunity to choose their second and third rotations by attending Rotation Talks. Early in the Fall semester, all faculty interested in hosting rotating GGD students will give a short talk describing their research. All first-year students are required to attend all of these talks. Using the information in these talks, the students determine which research projects they find most interesting and contact the faculty to set up meetings to discuss the possibility of a rotation in that lab. Faculty may review previous rotation evaluations in order to help them make a decision. Once an agreement has been reached, students inform the DGS and the GFAs of where they will be rotating.
Timing for Rotation Periods
- First Rotation Period: mid-October – mid-December (10/21 – 12/15/2018)
- Second Rotation Period: early January – early March (1/7 – 3/4/2019)
- Third Rotation Period: early March – early May (3/7 – 5/6/2019)
Students are expected to follow these dates closely. A student who has a need to modify them should contact the DGS.
Please note that graduate students do not follow the undergraduate academic calendar. Because you are paid a twelve-month stipend, you are expected to be active in academics and/or research unless the university itself is closed. During your first year any time away should be discussed with the DGS and your rotation supervisors. Refer to the web page on Current Student Funding for details of time away.
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, culminating in a written description of the project and record of the progress made. You should have a frank discussion of lab expectations at the beginning of each rotation and again at the end for an evaluation and constructive feedback on the rotation. Regular communication with your faculty supervisor(s), and, in subsequent years, your Special Committee, is a vital component of your success.
Usually, by the end of the third rotation, you will have had a conversation with faculty whose lab you are interested in joining for your thesis research. Please note, faculty should not commit to accepting a student into their lab until the last day of classes in Spring semester (usually early May). This is designed to ensure all students have the fair chance of completing their third rotation before faculty make their final decisions. However, students are encouraged to have a clear and honest discussion with interested faculty about the possibility of joining their labs ahead of time, in order to gauge the likelihood of joining a particular lab, and whether a summer rotation will be necessary. Students who want to initiate the fourth rotation in the summer months should consult with the DGS.
All first-year students are expected to have been accepted into a lab (i.e. found a Special Committee Chair) by August 1, i.e. by one year after they have enrolled. Rotations cannot be extended beyond that time. Students who are unable to identify a Special Committee Chair by this time will be considered as not making satisfactory progress and may be asked to withdraw from the program.
First Year Assessment
The evaluation of first-year students is based on grades received from courses taken and rotation evaluations. Students should refer to the Curriculum section of the web site for details of courses to be taken in the first year. Students are expected to take a minimum of 4.5 credits of GRADED courses each semester during their 1st year in the program.
Rotation Evaluations: Supervising faculty in each rotation are required to meet with the student to discuss rotation performance at the end of each rotation. Constructive feedback is important for students and will help them not only in subsequent rotations but also in their graduate program. A Rotation Evaluation Form must be filled out by the faculty and the signed copy given to the GFA.
These evaluations are vital to the evaluation of the first-year class. Early in the summer, the GGD Field Faculty meet as a group to discuss the progress of all the first-year students. Results of the evaluation are communicated to the students by a formal letter from the DGS. Anyone who is judged not to have made satisfactory progress is asked to leave the program.
In the absence of persuasive mitigating circumstances, students with the following performance in their first two semesters will be asked to leave the GGD program:
- Two or more ‘failed’ rotations
- OR Two C grades in core courses
- OR One C grade in core courses AND one failed rotation
- OR Cumulative GPA < 3.0 in core courses AND one failed rotation