Fall Rotation Information

Research Exploration Rotations

An important aspect of the BCB training program is participation in Research Exploration Rotations.  The main purpose of a rotation is to find a permanent home in which to conduct PhD research. Research exploration rotations also provide students an opportunity to actively participate in research projects of three BCB faculty laboratories which can promote interaction and exchange of information among BCB research groups. 

A research project may be conducted during the exploration rotations, but because the rotations are necessarily brief, it may be difficult to complete a project in either a biological or computational research group. Therefore, completion of a project is not required. 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.

If students are interested in joining a professor’s lab, it is highly appropriate to convey this information to the professor and to ask about possible lab placement. However, it is best if final decisions are not made until all rotations have been completed. 

Participation in research exploration rotations is required for all first year BCB students:  three rotations for Ph.D. students and two rotations for M.S students.  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.

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, available on the BCB website and from the BCB program office;
  • homepages of individual BCB faculty (see BCB website);
  • 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.

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 Rotation decisions 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 six to eight weeks for Ph.D. students, and about six weeks for M.S. students.  Adherence to the following timetable is strongly recommended.  It is critical that students choose a major professor and notify the BCB office of their choice on or before the deadlines indicated.


Lab Exploration Rotation Timetable




Deadline for submitting Rotation Planning form

September 8

September 8

Deadlines for beginning rotations:

      Rotation #1

      Rotation #2

      Rotation #3

      Rotation #4


Sept 11–Oct 27

Oct 30-Dec 15

Jan 8-Feb 23

Feb 26-Apr 13


September 18

November 2


Deadline for final lab decision

April 13

December 3

Deadline for filing Home Department form

April 27

December 15

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. The program coordinator should be informed about any changes in rotation schedules.  Assistance in scheduling another exploration rotation can be provided if needed.

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 in the BCB website.

All BCB graduate students should register for a total of 9 credit hours each Spring and Fall semester and a total of 1 credit hour each Summer semester. 

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.