I’m not sure how many times I’ve referred to Rotations in my previous posts and assumed that the reader understands what they are, but I’ve come to realize that maybe they aren’t as common and as well known to people as I think they are. In the past couple of weeks, as I’ve started working in a different department, I’ve had to explain the concept several different times, so I thought I’d just write a quick post on what exactly Rotations are.

First of all, let me just remind you that these are my experiences at MSU and may not be the same at every university (although I think they are probably similar in many ways).

Rotations are an opportunitiy for first year graduate students to work in several different labs at the university. At MSU, we have to do 2, most people do 3 and some people do up to 5. These are 10 week sessions where you join in a lab and work on a small project to understand how the advisor mentors students and how the lab group operates. The project is either an original question that stems from a project in the lab, a small part of someone’s project, a pilot or proof of concept idea for a new project (that could be the start of your thesis if you joined), or something else. Basically, a small project that, hopefully, allows for some original thought, new ideas/techniques and an appropriate representation of how things operate in the lab.

Not only are they good opportunities to understand how an advisor and lab operates, they can be great learning experiences. They will add tools to your ever-expanding box. They will also help you sort out what type of research you want to do. Sure, you got accepted to X program, but within that program are a variety of different fields and topics, each of which will inspire you differently.

I like to call them 10 week interviews – for both of you. You’re trying to find out if the lab is a right fit for you, and they’re trying to figure out if you’ll be a good fit in the lab.

Have any more questions about rotations? Let me know! Or, let me know what you think about them!




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Filed under Grad School, Guidebook

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