Lab Rotations… Where Do I Start?

So, I officially start my Ph.D. Program (well…it’s Welcome Day but that counts right?) next, next, Monday! Eeeeee! As much as I contemplate  marrying rich and becoming a full-time socialite, I am getting really excited to start school! It’s been a long time coming and could never be an experience I take for granted.

The semester officially starts September 4th, and I think it’s about time I start getting ready for school. First stop, lab rotations. Although I’ve been working in a research lab full-time for the past five years, I’ve never been in a position where I had to choose my lab nor do lab rotations.

After undergrad I was offered a research technician position that paved a way for me to get into a Master’s thesis program. While I loved the lab I was in, even if I hadn’t, I would have stayed because it was a stepping stone to where I wanted to go. There were certain conversations that I didn’t (need to) have with my PI because I wasn’t looking to join as a Ph.D. student, I joined as an employee looking for a way into graduate school.

While I did choose my Master’s thesis lab, we didn’t do rotations because the program was only two years. Instead, we chose faculty based on their research and after having a 1-on-1 conversation. I ended up choosing a lab that wasn’t the right fit for me and switched to a new lab – which was absolutely perfect – at the end of my first year.

In hindsight, while choosing the wrong lab for me was frustrating and upsetting, I’m grateful for the experience because it helped me understand what my expectations are as a graduate student researcher. Now I consider myself to be in a great position because I know exactly what to look for in a lab that I would and would not love.

Okay, so here we are, faced with the task of choosing a new lab home for the next few years. Here’s what I’ve been doing.

First, I reached out to my network, friends, faculty, graduate students, staff, etc., to ask  how they set up their rotations.  Your program should share resources about how to get started. If they don’t, ask them.

The general consensus for contacting potential mentors seems to be 2-4 weeks before you start school, especially if there is someone you really want to work with. Others said they didn’t set up their rotations until after school started so that they had a better idea of their options.

Since I like to plan early and I have 2 weeks until school starts, I’m going to prepare a list of faculty that I’m interested in and reach out to my networks so I can gauge the reputation and environment of the lab. I think that I’ll wait to set up my first rotation until the semester starts so that I can have a face-to-face meeting as well.

Now I’m going to read this blog by #scienceincolor Advice and Guidance for Graduate Students: How to Rotate.

That’s all I got for now! I’ll keep you posted and if you have any tips or suggestions feel free to comment on this post!

Good Luck!

With Love,
Chi-Chi

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