Research Rotations

The Research Rotation Program

The Research Rotation Program is an integral component of the first year in our Program. Each first year student in the Program is required to undertake and pass three quarter-long (ten week) Research Rotations, one in the Fall, Winter and Spring quarters. For Fall, Winter, and Spring rotations (but not summer rotations), students should register for BNFO 298.

The aims of the Research Rotation Program are:

  • Provide opportunities for students and faculty to determine whether there is a mutual rapport (“chemistry”) that may form the basis for a successful advisor-student relationship.
  • Provide students with training opportunities to learn hands-on research skills in the host laboratory.
  • Provide students opportunities to develop personal and scientific connections that may result in collaborative research (many students have catalyzed collaborations between laboratories) and/or appointments as co-advisor/dissertation committee members.

Guidelines and Rules of the Research Rotation Program

Students are responsible for identifying laboratories/faculty they are interested in joining for a Research Rotation. Students may only rotate with faculty who could also function as their Disseration Advisors. All rotations must be with different faculty.

Faculty are encouraged to develop short projects for rotation students so that students can get a sense of the lab and learn research skills. Rotation projects may or may not be related to possible Ph.D. dissertation projects. Students should check the Rotation Projects Descriptions website (BISB projects site; BMI projects site) to identify projects of interest. Please refer to our Faculty Directory for a full list of Program Faculty contact information and research interests. If faculty do not have a rotation project listed online please contact them directly to discuss available projects.

  • The One-Page Rotation Project Proposal. For each rotation project, the Student is required to submit a one-page proposal, signed by the Rotation Mentor, to the Program Coordinator by the first day of instruction of the quarter. Thus it is expected that Faculty interested in hosting students for a rotation work with the student prior to the first day of instruction of the quarter to outline the project. The document represents a commitment by the Faculty to provide the student with Research Rotation Project and training/supervision during the quarter.
  • The Five-Page Rotation Project Report. To complete the ten-week rotation, the Student is required to submit a five-page report, signed by the Rotation Mentor, to the Program Coordinator by the last day of instruction of the quarter. It should summarize the work, results and conclusions. The document becomes part of the student's academic record and provides the advisor with a record of the student's accomplishments. Failure to complete a rotation within a quarter will result in an “incomplete” on the student's transcript.
  • The Oral Rotation Project Presentation. At Research Rotation meeting(s) during the subsequent quarter, the Student is required to present their Research Rotation work. The purpose of these meetings is to provide an opportunity to fine-tune presentation skills, and to encourage scientific exchange between students to develop community and inform each other of research opportunities among diverse Program Faculty.  Currently, these presentations occur in the Student Research Talks (BNFO 283) in Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters; for Spring and Summer rotations, the presentations are in the following Fall quarter.
  • Student Evaluation. The student's Research Rotation work is evaluated by the Rotation Mentor using a confidential evaluation sheet, and by the Program's Research Rotation Program Coordinators who review the Five-Page Rotation Project Report and the Oral Presentation. The Rotation Mentor is required to submit the evaluation sheet by one week after the last day of instruction of the quarter to the Program Coordinator.

Research Training

Before doing a rotation or joining a lab, students should check whether any training is required. Additional training could include lab safety training, HIPAA training, CITI training, or other training programs (many of which are listed here and here). Students supported by the BMI Training Grant are required to take HIPAA and CITI training. 

Summer Rotations

In the event that a student needs to do summer rotations, summer is split into two 6-week rotation periods, which do not align with UCSD summer session's 5-week quarters. The first one starts the week after Spring Quarter finals week. Since graduate students do not normally take classes during the summer, it is expected that a 6-week summer rotation will have similar scope to a normal 10-week rotation during the school year. For summer rotations, the one-page proposal is due by the first day of the rotation period; the five-page project report is due by the last day; the student evaluation is due one week after the last day; and the oral report will be done in the fall quarter.

Guidelines for Matching Students and Ph.D. Advisors

The match-making process is guided by the principle that allowing students (and faculty) to make decisions free of pressures leads to be best match and most productive student-advisor relationship and Ph.D. dissertation work.

At the conclusion of the 3rd rotation, students and faculty can begin discussions about students joining labs, and about possible dissertation projects. However, prior to Spring quarter Finals week, while the Rotation Program is in process, such discussions are inappropriate, as they prejudice students as well as faculty in subsequent rotations, thereby disadvantaging other students and faculty in the Rotation Program. As such, overt recruiting prior to Spring quarter Finals week is not permitted under the Rotation Programs guidelines.

When a student and faculty agree to form a Ph.D. partnership, they inform the Program Coordinator, and the prospective advisor provides information about relevant funding sources. The steering committee formally approves the match.

All students, regardless of their background and elective track, are expected to identify a dissertation research laboratory at the end of the Spring quarter, such that they may begin their doctoral research in the summer. However, any student may petition the Curriculum Committee to undertake additional rotations.


Academic year 2016-17 Proposal 5 page report Student evaluation Oral report
Fall Thu Sep 22, 2016 Fri Dec 2, 2016 Fri Dec 9, 2016 Winter 2017
Winter Mon Jan 9, 2017 Fri Mar 17, 2017 Fri Mar 24, 2017 Spring 2017
Spring Mon Apr 3, 2017 Fri Jun 9, 2017 Fri Jun 16, 2017 Fall 2017
Advisor-Student Match Up June 12-16, 2017      
1st Summer Mon Jun 19, 2017 Fri Jul 28, 2017 Fri Aug 4, 2017 Fall 2017
2nd Summer Mon Jul 31, 2017 Fri Sep 8, 2017 Fri Sep 15, 2017 Fall 2017
Academic year 2017-18 Proposal 5 page report Student evaluation Oral report
Fall Thu Sep 28, 2017 Fri Dec 8, 2017 Fri Dec 15, 2017 Winter 2018
Winter Mon Jan 8, 2018 Fri Mar 16, 2018 Fri Mar 23, 2018 Spring 2018
Spring Mon Apr 2, 2018 Fri Jun 8, 2018 Fri Jun 15, 2018 Fall 2018
Advisor-Student Match Up June 11-15, 2018      
1st Summer Mon Jun 18, 2018 Fri Jul 27, 2018 Fri Aug 3, 2018 Fall 2018
2nd Summer Mon Jul 30, 2018 Fri Sep 7, 2018 Fri Sep 14, 2018 Fall 2018
Academic year 2018-19 Proposal 5 page report Student evaluation Oral report
Fall Thu Sep 27, 2018 Fri Dec 7, 2018 Fri Dec 14, 2018 Winter 2019
Winter Mon Jan 7, 2019 Fri Mar 15, 2019 Fri Mar 22, 2019 Spring 2019
Spring Mon Apr 1, 2019 Fri Jun 7, 2019 Fri Jun 14, 2019 Fall 2019
Advisor-Student Match Up June 10-14, 2019      
1st Summer Mon Jun 17, 2019 Fri Jul 26, 2019 Fri Aug 2, 2019 Fall 2019
2nd Summer Mon Jul 29, 2019 Fri Sep 6, 2019 Fri Sep 13, 2019 Fall 2019
Academic year 2019-20 Proposal 5 page report Student evaluation Oral report
Fall Thu Sep 26, 2019 Fri Dec 6, 2019 Fri Dec 13, 2019 Winter 2020
Winter Mon Jan 6, 2020 Fri Mar 13, 2020 Fri Mar 20, 2020 Spring 2020
Spring Mon Mar 30, 2020 Fri Jun 5, 2020 Fri Jun 12, 2020 Fall 2020
Advisor-Student Match Up June 8-12, 2020      
1st Summer Mon Jun 15, 2020 Fri Jul 24, 2020 Fri Jul 31, 2020 Fall 2020
2nd Summer Mon Jul 27, 2020 Fri Sep 4, 2020 Fri Sep 11, 2020 Fall 2020