BCB Laboratory Rotations

The Purpose of Rotations

An important aspect of the BCB training program is participation in Research Exploration Rotations. Participation in three research exploration rotations is required for all first year BCB students. The rotations serve several purposes:

  • They are designed to help students choose their future major professors and to help professors choose graduate students;
  • They provide students an opportunity to actively participate in research projects of BCB faculty laboratories; and
  • They promote interaction and exchange of information among BCB research groups.

A listing of faculty who may have rotations is here.

Rotation Selections and BCB Program Policies

The selection of labs for rotations should be guided by the following:

  • At least one rotation must be a "wet" laboratory experience (usually in a biological science laboratory using molecular biological, biophysical or biochemical techniques).
  • At least one rotation must involve a strong computational component (usually in a research group in computer science, mathematics, physics, statistics or engineering).
  • Students are strongly encouraged to participate in rotations in at least two different departments.

Faculty interested in having students rotate through their labs this Fall and in Spring, 2018, are here. Faculty who had rotations in the past are also listed. Links to their home pages are provided so you can become familiar with their on-going research projects. Some also have brief descriptions of potential rotation projects you might be involved with if you rotate in their labs.

Information on all BCB faculty members and their research interests can be found on our website here.

Funding Issues, Lab Rotations, and Permanent Lab Selection

Communicating with the rotation advisor before, during and after the rotation is extremely important so the best match can be found between students and major professors for research outcomes, as well as for financial support.

  • A discussion of available funding should take place before the rotation commences to make sure funding will not be an issue, if a student wants to permanently join a lab.  As grant seeking is an ongoing matter for faculty, it is good to discuss this topic more than once.
  • It is also appropriate to ask for a performance review during the rotation and to ask if the faculty would consider accepting you into his or her lab.
  • As the rotation comes to an end, it is especially important to let the professor know of your interest in permanently joining the lab, if that is the case. The professor may have several students rotating in their lab.  Communication with your rotation advisor about your interest in their research and in joining their lab is essential to finding a permanent placement with them.
  • Exceptional performance by a student in a rotation may motivate faculty to find funding sources if none are currently available.

The program asks that you make your final decision on a permanent placement after all rotations have been completed.

Rotation Expectations

Because rotations are necessarily brief, students are not usually able to "complete" a project, in either a biological or computational research group. However, many faculty will use research productivity as one measure by which they determine whether to offer a student the opportunity to join their laboratory.  It is therefore important to allow sufficient time in your schedule to actively engage in the intellectual activities of your host lab.

For each rotation, at the minimum, students should:

  • get to know the professor and the students and postdocs working in the research group;
  • learn as much as possible about the professor's research projects;
  • obtain "hands on" experience in one of the group's research projects;
  • attend research group meetings and journal club meetings; and
  • read reprints, reviews, and grant proposals related to the group's research.

Rotation Selection Resources

Beginning in Orientation Week, students should take advantage of and make opportunities to meet individual faculty members and discuss their research.  Students should arrange appointments with the professors whose work interests them most, with some care given to financial support.

Students should make use of the following resources in selecting research groups and professors with whom to rotate:

  • discussions with individual faculty members. (This is very important.) Faculty can provide information on their most recent research and grant funding; if asked, they can let students know if they have funding to take on a graduate student or if they have the space to host another graduate student;
  • the list of BCB faculty who have expressed an interest in serving as mentors for research exploration rotation students, link: here;
  • homepages of individual BCB faculty, link: here;
  • research talks given by faculty in the BCB Faculty Seminar and in the various departmental seminars on campus;
  • discussions with current BCB graduate students, and
  • special orientation week events: here.

Students should compile a list of several BCB faculty with whom they would like to rotate; this can be done in consultation with the temporary advisor.  Students should personally contact the faculty members to determine whether they are accepting rotation students and to schedule a rotation.

To assist both faculty and students in planning, students should attempt to schedule exploration rotations and submit a completed BCB Research Exploration Rotation Planning Form to the BCB office as early as possible.   The deadline for submitting the Rotation Planning form in Fall semester is September 8.  Typically, the length of each rotation is approximately seven to eight weeks for Ph.D. students

Here are dates for the Fall 2018/Spring 2019 Rotation Program

Please submit Rotation Planning Form
to the BCB Office by:

September 8


Dates for Rotations

Rotation #1 - September 11 through October 27

Rotation #2 - October 30 through December 15

Rotation #3 - January 8 through February 23

Rotation #4 - Although not recommended, there is time for a 4th rotation: February 26 through April 13

Please notify BCB Office of your
lab selection by:

April 13

Please file your Home Department
form by:

April 27

Forms to submit Rotation choices, evaluate your Rotations, and establish your Home Department

To satisfactorily complete BCB 697, students must submit a Rotation Evaluation form for each rotation which briefly describes their work in the rotation.  Faculty will use another form to comment on the rotation experience, as well. The forms are downloadable from the Forms and Publications webpage:

  • Rotation Planning Form
  • Rotation Evaluation Form - Student
  • Rotation Evaluation Form - Faculty
  • Establishing Home Department Form

Other Rotation Considerations

If a student realizes within the first two weeks of a rotation exploration that the rotation experience is not in an area of research he or she wishes to pursue, the student should consult with their temporary advisor and the program coordinator.  The program coordinator should be informed about the situation.  Assistance in scheduling another exploration rotation can be provided if needed.

To obtain graduate credit for research exploration rotations students should register for BCB 697 - BCB Research Rotations for two semesters (Ph.D. students) or one semester (M.S. students).  Rotation students usually register for two to five credits of BCB 697 per semester.  The number of these credits will vary according to how many other course credits are taken in fall and spring semesters. All BCB graduate students should register for a total of 12 credit hours each Spring and Fall semester and a total of 1 credit hour each Summer semester. 

Many more details about the "how-to's" on rotations can be found in this document.