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 4 units of 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.
  • The one-page rotation proposal, the five-page rotation project report, and the Rotation Mentor's evaluation of the student, are all mandatory program requirements and are needed to assign your grade in BNFO 298. These must be submitted by the deadlines or your grade in BNFO 298 will be in jeopardy. We do not expect that every short rotation will achieve an important research result; the results will often be preliminary or exploratory. For further questions, please contact the Graduate Coordinator or the BNFO 298 instructor.

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 2020-21 Proposal 5 page report Student evaluation Oral report
Fall Thu Oct 1, 2020 Fri Dec 11, 2020 Fri Dec 18, 2020 Winter 2021
Winter Mon Jan 4, 2021 Fri Mar 12, 2021 Fri Mar 19, 2021 Spring 2021
Spring Mon Mar 29, 2021 Fri Jun 4, 2021 Fri Jun 11, 2021 Fall 2021
Advisor-Student Match Up June 7-11, 2021      
1st Summer Mon Jun 14, 2021 Fri Jul 23, 2021 Fri Jul 30, 2021 Fall 2021
2nd Summer Mon Jul 26, 2021 Fri Sep 3, 2021 Fri Sep 10, 2021 Fall 2021
Academic year 2021-22 Proposal 5 page report Student evaluation Oral report
Fall Thu Sep 23, 2021 Fri Dec 3, 2021 Fri Dec 10, 2021 Winter 2022
Winter Mon Jan 3, 2022 Fri Mar 11, 2022 Fri Mar 18, 2022 Spring 2022
Spring Mon Mar 28, 2022 Fri Jun 3, 2022 Fri Jun 10, 2022 Fall 2022
Advisor-Student Match Up June 6-10, 2022      
1st Summer Mon Jun 13, 2022 Fri Jul 22, 2022 Fri Jul 29, 2022 Fall 2022
2nd Summer Mon Jul 25, 2022 Fri Sep 2, 2022 Fri Sep 9, 2022 Fall 2022
Academic year 2022-23 Proposal 5 page report Student evaluation Oral report
Fall Thu Sep 22, 2022 Fri Dec 2, 2022 Fri Dec 9, 2022 Winter 2023
Winter Mon Jan 9, 2023 Fri Mar 17, 2023 Fri Mar 24, 2023 Spring 2023
Spring Mon Apr 3, 2023 Fri Jun 9, 2023 Fri Jun 16, 2023 Fall 2023
Advisor-Student Match Up June 12-16, 2023      
1st Summer Mon Jun 19, 2023 Fri Jul 28, 2023 Fri Aug 4, 2023 Fall 2023
2nd Summer Mon Jul 31, 2023 Fri Sep 8, 2023 Fri Sep 15, 2023 Fall 2023