Student Handbook - Rotation Research

Rotation Research

Early in the first semester, students will make arrangements with MCB faculty trainers to begin rotations in laboratory research. All students are required to pass three academic year rotations in the laboratories of Program faculty. The three academic year rotation periods are November 1-January 31, February 1-March 31, and April 1- May 31. The rotations are intended to provide familiarity with different areas of research and allow an informed choice of the laboratory for thesis research. Usually, a thesis laboratory will be selected from one of three rotation laboratories by June 1. If necessary, students can conduct additional rotations working full time in the sponsor laboratory for the month of June (fourth rotation period), the month of July (fifth rotation period), and the month of August (sixth rotation period), as necessary until a thesis laboratory is identified. The choice of the thesis laboratory must be made no later than September 1 of the third semester. Students may not conduct thesis research in a laboratory without first conducting a research rotation in that laboratory. MCB students may opt to arrange a research project in an MCB trainer laboratory during the summer prior to the start of the first year in the program, working as a temporary research technician in the sponsor laboratory. In this case, the sponsor laboratory can be included among the choices for a thesis laboratory. However, summer research does not substitute for the three required rotations during the academic year.

Laboratory Rotation Guidelines

Research rotations are a crucial part of the first academic year. Rotations give the student an opportunity to see academic knowledge put into practice, to learn new techniques and approaches, and to broaden exposure to different areas of research. Rotations also allow the student and faculty advisor to see how well they work together.

Choosing a Laboratory

The first rotation begins on November 1, the second on February 1 and the third on April 1. During September and October of the first year, students learn about Program faculty research through informal lunchtime presentations. Students then meet individually with faculty members to discuss possible rotation projects in more detail. Students should arrange their rotations approximately one month in advance of the beginning of each session and inform the Director of the Graduate Program of the rotation choice using the Rotation Agreement Form, which needs to be signed by the student and the rotation advisor.  

Various factors should be taken into account when considering laboratories including the area of scientific reasearch and the overall laboratory environment. For each student, the relative contributions of these factors to the choice will be different, and students are encouraged to explore what is important to them in choosing a training environment through their rotations as well as through their interactions with faculty mentors, other students, and advisory committee members.

Working in a Laboratory

Students are expected to devote their full effort outside of class work and other Program activities to their individual research projects, whether they be rotation or thesis studies. The rotations are crucial aspects of the Program and are considered equally important as a core course. The student's performance during the rotations is evaluated through on-going interactions with the mentor and a public seminar, and assigned a letter grade in BIOL2980 Graduate Independent Study for the fall semester based on the first rotation and the spring semester based on the average of the second and third rotations. At the end of each rotation, the rotation advisor will evaluate the student using the Rotation Evaluation Form, which is submitted to the Director of the Graduate Program immediately after the end of each rotation. The Rotation Evaluation Form must be signed by the student and the rotation advisor.