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Research Rotations & Mentor Selection

Research rotations provide an opportunity for each student to experience the research environment in several different labs. These experiences are critical for choosing an appropriate lab/mentor for one’s thesis work. All students receive instructions on best practices for successful lab rotations at orientation and are encouraged to work with the Theme Director(s) concerning selecting lab rotations.

Students are expected to complete the Lab Rotation Verification Form within 10 days of the beginning of the rotation. Early summer admits are to complete prior to receiving their summer appointment letter. The decision to join a lab is by mutual agreement between the student and mentor, with approval by the mentor’s department chair.

No later than 10 days after the end of a lab rotation, the student and the mentor complete and submit the appropriate GBS mentor and student lab rotation evaluation forms to document the lab rotation experience from each perspective.

Students must complete at least three lab rotations in three different labs prior to joining a thesis lab*.


  • 2024-2025 Rotation Dates
    • Early Spring: January 2 - March 1, 2024
    • Late Spring: March 4 - May 3, 2024 (if needed)
    • Summer: June 3 - August 2, 2024
    • Early Fall: August 12 - October 11, 2024 
    • Late Fall: October 14 - December 13, 2024 
    • Early Spring 2025: January 6 - March 7, 2025
    • Late Spring 2025: March 10 - May 9, 2025 (if needed)

Choosing a Lab Rotation:

Students should contact faculty to request an in-person meeting to learn about faculty research interests and discuss doing a rotation in that lab. Students should choose their rotation labs in consultation with their theme director. The first rotation does not need to be set up prior to arriving on campus, but it is recommended to start reaching out to faculty a few weeks before the first rotation begins to gauge possible labs.

While rotations typically occur with faculty in the student's chosen theme, students are free to rotate with faculty in other themes and research areas.  Students can explore faculty using the following resources:

Check out this article by current student Gbenga Ojo for advice on choosing a rotation lab.


*Rotation Waiver

Opting out of a rotation is discouraged. However, advanced students can be exempted for no more than one rotation if they have extensive prior laboratory experience that could be considered to be more extensive than a single GBS rotation. Prior experience that may be considered appropriate would include:

  • A master's degree in a related scientific field (such as chemistry or biology).
  • Extensive undergraduate research that has (or will) result in authorship on a publication.
  • Undergraduate research that resulted in graduation with honors for research (with a thesis defense).
  • At least two undergraduate summer research experiences offered by competitive summer undergraduate research programs.
  • At least one year of undergraduate research that averaged at least 10 hours/week.

Petitions should be made following consultations between you, your proposed mentor, and the relevant theme director. If all parties agree, the student is to complete the Rotation Waiver Request form including all reasons why you should be allowed to waive the research rotation.


Selection of Dissertation Mentor

The choice of a dissertation mentor is one of the most important decisions you will make as a graduate student. You should keep this in mind as you choose laboratory rotations and participate in lecture and seminar activities throughout your first year in the program. First year students should select a dissertation mentor by June 1. You should make this choice in consultation with your potential dissertation mentor in order to come to a mutually agreeable decision and arrangement.

In special cases, students unprepared to make this choice may be allowed to complete an additional laboratory rotation during the summer term. Clearly, a fourth laboratory rotation should be elected only after careful consideration, since doing so could delay your completion of the doctoral program. Please complete the Mentor Selection Form when an agreement with the dissertation advisor/mentor has been made. 

When selecting a mentor, GBS students will be expected to complete the Best Practices for the Mentor/Mentee Relationship. This document provides guiding principles to support the development of a positive relationship between the mentor and mentee. The purpose of these guidelines is to promote a mutual understanding of expectations to develop a communicative relationship between the mentor and mentee from the beginning of training. A successful training experiences requires commitment from the mentor and from the mentee. 


Confirmation of Theme Affiliation

You enter the program with a given theme affiliation, but have the flexibility to rotate with any faculty with active GBS status. You may change theme affiliation if your research training interests change. Alternatively, faculty outside of your theme affiliation may elect to join your themes, if joining is consistent with theme interests; this would allow you to retain your original theme affiliation. If you switch themes, you may be required to take additional first year theme-specific courses; these can be completed during year two to fulfill advanced course requirements.

Communication between you, your selected mentor, and the original and new theme directors will be necessary to facilitate transfer among themes. All student should confirm their theme affiliation at the time of dissertation advisor selection.


Poster Presentation

All students completing their first year in GBS are expected to present a poster on one of their lab rotations at the GBS Symposium. The Symposium is an opportunity to showcase the research and achievements of GBS students and to give first-year students an opportunity to practice presentation and discussion of their research.


If you have further questions, please contact GBS Communication Manager