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Rotations

BBSP requires that students complete 3 rotations with different faculty mentors in order to make sure they find a PI and a lab environment in which they will be successful during the years they are in graduate school. On this page, you’ll find more information about rotations and our current policies.

The rotation schedule for the 2020-21 academic year

FallMonday, Aug 24 – Friday, Nov 6 (okay to start before Aug 24)
Rotation choice form due Friday, August 21

WinterMonday, Nov 9 – Friday, Jan 29
Rotation choice form due Friday, Oct 9
NOTE: This year, BBSP’s Fall FYG course is planned to finish on Nov 18 (other courses may be different), so there are no BBSP first-year courses between Nov 19 and Jan 4. These are suggested holidays to account for typical vacations/travel during this time of the year. Total time out of lab and exact dates can be negotiated between the student and PI.

SpringMonday, Feb 1 – Friday, Apr 9
Rotation choice form due: Friday, Jan 22

Thesis Lab Choice Forms Due: Friday, Apr 16
*summer rotation students joining labs early: due Feb 5
DGSs may choose to not sign the forms before Mar 29 to make sure all students have an opportunity to consider their decision

First Day in Thesis Lab: Monday, Apr 19
*summer rotation students joining labs early: Feb 8

Before they officially begin BBSP, admitted students are allowed to complete a rotation during the summer. Since BBSP funding starts in August, students must find a faculty mentor who can financially support them at the stipend level for the next academic year. We offer 3 lengths of summer rotations (6 weeks, 8 weeks, and 10 weeks) depending on student and faculty availability and funding. Students who complete a summer rotation only need to complete two more rotations (Fall and Winter) before they can choose a dissertation lab to join; but, they can also complete one more rotation in the Spring if they so choose.

A student should not rotate in a lab that they have no intention of joining. Examples include rotating just to learn a technique, working on the same project as a previous rotation but in a collaborator’s lab, or if the student is already intent on joining a particular lab.

Faculty should not, under any circumstances, accept a rotation student if they have no reasonable possibility of financial support for that student beginning in June. Faculty may rotate students if they are waiting on scores for submitted grants, but they should be transparent with students that this is the case.

Faculty should avoid rotating many students in a single academic year. While there is no formal cap, faculty should expect to rotate 2-3 students for each funded slot they have in their lab.

  • Students should be in lab during normal working hours when they are not in class, but pay more attention to the work they accomplish than the amount of face-time they are around
  • Working schedules should balance “productivity” with time needed for coursework, family, and self-care
  • If expectations of faculty or students do not seem to be met, you should communicate your expectations more clearly and be flexible in how those expectations can be fulfilled
  • Students should attend lab meeting when possible, and labs may want to adjust their lab meeting schedule depending on when rotation students have class or other obligations
  • Students should be sure that they are actively demonstrating their interest in a lab’s research: participate in discussions, show curiosity, ask to help with others’ projects, get to know everyone in lab, bring up papers you’ve read in conversation
    • Mentors should invite students to demonstrate their interest in group and individual settings (not everyone is comfortable in new working environments)
  • Students should work towards independence over the course of the rotation, but should still ask for help when needed
  • Meetings between a student and faculty mentor should be as often as is mutually desirable, and methods for how to communicate and how to get help when needed should be clear
  • Students and PIs should meet midway through and at the end of a rotation to give mutual feedback about how it is going

To help with advising and student lab placement, we ask that faculty provide a grade and written feedback on the rotation. BBSP uses the following grading guidelines.

H – High Pass: A graduate student meeting all expectations and potentially exceeding some expectations. A rotation student deserving of an H has many of the following qualities:

  • Was fully engaged; mostly independent
  • Was highly interactive; well prepared for your meetings
  • Was able to analyze data and to think about ‘the bigger picture’
  • Carefully read papers to prepare for the project and during their time in the lab
  • Attended and participated in lab meetings; asked good questions
  • Received constructive feedback and improved their performance

P – Pass: A good student who worked hard and has potential for success. A grade of P generally means this student mostly met the minimum expectations of a rotation, though they may have a couple of areas for development. A rotation student receiving a grade of P generally:

  • Gained independence over time (may still have needed regular input from the rotation supervisor)
  • Was reasonably engaged in the lab– attended lab meetings, read papers, interacted with lab members about science
  • Demonstrated understanding of their project in conversations or meetings with you, or in lab meeting presentations
  • Received constructive feedback and made some gains to improve their performance

L – Low Pass: A student whose performance falls well below the basic standards outlined above and who does not improve after feedback about their performance. If you see early on that the student is not meeting expectations, you owe it to them to intervene early and to give feedback so they have an opportunity to improve. It is very important that you explain why you are giving the L in your comments. Reasons for a poor performance could include:

  • Egregiously poor attendance (not due to unexpected health or personal problems), lack of effort falls well below what could be considered reasonable for a rotation student with a full class load
  • Lacked focus and didn’t engage with the lab
  • Extremely poor interpersonal skills causing major friction/conflict with others in your lab (NOTE: if the student just didn’t fit in well or made a few mis-steps that alone would not justify an L)

A note about the L grade: The Graduate School’s policy is that a student receiving 9 or more credit hours of L grades may not be allowed to continue in their program. Each rotation counts for 3 credit hours, so giving a student an L in a rotation almost certainly will not cause the student’s expulsion (unless it brings them to a total of 9 credit hours of L). A grade of L does, however, send a strong message that they need to start giving more effort and attention to their other rotations and is an important record of their performance.