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Neuro_1993

Choosing a Rotation Lab

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Neuro_1993    1

I was just admitted into a biomedical-sciences training program, with a focus on informatics. I now have to find four faculty members to complete rotations with. I believe the first two will occur during the Fall semester, the next two during the Spring, and then I will have to choose my adviser.

Anybody have advice? What should I look for in a potential adviser besides having research interests that align? Should I also be sending emails out now or waiting until the semester actually starts?

Thanks for the advice.. just super nervous to start. 

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Basil    4

Great question. First of all, finding labs to rotate in and choosing your home lab are entirely unique situations to have to deal with. Obviously, the latter is a much tougher and more urgent situation to deal with. While filling those rotations might be a more superficial process, there are some things you'll want to consider. 

  • Research Interests: You'll only want to rotate in labs that fit your research. 
  • Face-to-Face Interview:  Were you given a chance to meet potential advisors during graduate interviews? If not, find some advisors that align with your interests, and schedule a face-to-face meeting. This is extremely important and allows you to get a feel for what the adviser is all about, and what your role in the lab would be. 
  • Word of Mouth: It's always an excellent idea to talk to other students who have either rotated in the lab or are currently members of the lab. Be sure to ask around and talk to multiple students, as you'll always run into 1-2 students who may have had bad experiences in the lab, but these isolated experiences aren't accurate representations of how the lab would be. 

After filling the spots, it's now time to shift your focus on the rotations themselves. This is where you can gauge your experience across the weeks or months during the rotation. Some questions you need to assess: 

  • What kind of environment is the actual lab like? Can you imagine yourself spending four, five or even six years there? 
  • How does your research fit with your interests?  Sometimes during the face-to-face interview, you get the sense that the lab might be up your alley, regarding research, but once you do your rotation, you might find out that they deviate away from your passions. 
  • How much personal and educational growth do you believe you can achieve by joining this lab?
  • How do you feel about your advisor?  Gauging somebody from 1-2 interviews is hard. Seeing how your interact with your adviser across weeks and months is when you can truly see how well you work with them? 
  • What is the school/life balance in the lab? 

There's one last important thing I want to mention: Lab rotations are a two-way street. Not only are you seeing if a particular lab is a good fit for you, but your potential adviser is also looking to see if you are a good fit for them. Make sure to keep this in mind! 

Hope that helped! 

 

 

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Stephanie_R    3

I also think that the most important thing is to absolutely make sure you can see yourself working in the lab for however long your phd might be. Because my home lab right now has been amazing, they are supportive, and I feel like I can have a good school and life balance. So I think that is sooooo important. 

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Neuro_1993    1
On 6/21/2017 at 6:03 PM, Basil said:

Great question. First of all, finding labs to rotate in and choosing your home lab are entirely unique situations to have to deal with. Obviously, the latter is a much tougher and more urgent situation to deal with. While filling those rotations might be a more superficial process, there are some things you'll want to consider. 

  • Research Interests: You'll only want to rotate in labs that fit your research. 
  • Face-to-Face Interview:  Were you given a chance to meet potential advisors during graduate interviews? If not, find some advisors that align with your interests, and schedule a face-to-face meeting. This is extremely important and allows you to get a feel for what the adviser is all about, and what your role in the lab would be. 
  • Word of Mouth: It's always an excellent idea to talk to other students who have either rotated in the lab or are currently members of the lab. Be sure to ask around and talk to multiple students, as you'll always run into 1-2 students who may have had bad experiences in the lab, but these isolated experiences aren't accurate representations of how the lab would be. 

After filling the spots, it's now time to shift your focus on the rotations themselves. This is where you can gauge your experience across the weeks or months during the rotation. Some questions you need to assess: 

  • What kind of environment is the actual lab like? Can you imagine yourself spending four, five or even six years there? 
  • How does your research fit with your interests?  Sometimes during the face-to-face interview, you get the sense that the lab might be up your alley, regarding research, but once you do your rotation, you might find out that they deviate away from your passions. 
  • How much personal and educational growth do you believe you can achieve by joining this lab?
  • How do you feel about your advisor?  Gauging somebody from 1-2 interviews is hard. Seeing how your interact with your adviser across weeks and months is when you can truly see how well you work with them? 
  • What is the school/life balance in the lab? 

There's one last important thing I want to mention: Lab rotations are a two-way street. Not only are you seeing if a particular lab is a good fit for you, but your potential adviser is also looking to see if you are a good fit for them. Make sure to keep this in mind! 

Hope that helped! 

 

 

This is so helpful. I think you are right about choosing rotation spots isn't as hard as actually having to decide on who your home lab will be. I will make sure that I look into all the factors about how I fit in the lab and mesh with the adviser before actually finalzing my decision. 

 

On 6/21/2017 at 10:36 PM, Stephanie_R said:

I also think that the most important thing is to absolutely make sure you can see yourself working in the lab for however long your phd might be. Because my home lab right now has been amazing, they are supportive, and I feel like I can have a good school and life balance. So I think that is sooooo important. 

Thanks to you too Steph. This is such an important thing also to make sure I can have a good balance. I know it will be a lot of work but I also don't want an adviser who is going to work me to death. :P

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