Research Rotations and Choosing an Advisor

Q: What is the purpose of doing research rotations? 

A: For those students who enter the program uncommitted to a particular laboratory or type of research, research rotations help them explore various approaches to doing biomedical research and to choose an advisor for their Ph.D. dissertation work. This is a very important decision for each graduate student because the advisor is responsible not only for overseeing your research, but also for instilling a philosophy of science and providing guidance and recommendations that are critical for your future scientific career. 

Q: How do I decide in which laboratories to do research rotations? 

A: The best way to choose your first (and perhaps your second) research rotation is to visit the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology web site ( Each faculty member has her/his own page, which carries a description of the research projects ongoing in the lab and provides biographical information on publications, grant funding and other academic activities. The goal is to match your scientific and career interests with those of the faculty members with whom you will rotate. Dr. Steve Caplan, chairman of the BMB Graduate Committee, will advise you on your choices of rotation and will coordinate your rotation schedule. 

Q: Why should I delay selecting a laboratory for my third rotation? 

A: Once students have had more time to become familiar with UNMC and the BMB program, they can gather information from many sources to help choose laboratories for research rotations, including discussion with other students and experiences with faculty in seminars and in the classroom. 

Q: What if I don't find any of my choices acceptable after completing three rotations? 

A: If needed to produce a good match between student and advisor, a fourth rotation can be arranged. However, it seldom takes more than three rotations to make the choice and four rotations have been needed only in rare cases. 

Q: What if I find that I am ready to choose my advisor after only one or two rotations? Must I complete all three rotations in that case when I would really prefer to just stay in my favorite lab? 

A: This is a fairly frequent occurrence that always presents a dilemma. Our policy has always been that, unless circumstances demand otherwise, students should complete a minimum of three rotations. The rationale for this policy is that there is always something to be learned from doing research rotations in different laboratories in terms of exposure to different approaches and cross-fertilization of science philosophy. Delaying the designation of an advisor by a few weeks seldom causes any hardship for the student or advisor. 

Q: When should I make my decision and what should I do? 

A: Your decision for final lab should be made by the end of your 3rd rotation. You should talk with all faculty members with whom you rotated. Once you have made your decisions, you should talk with Dr. Sorgen. Final decisions should be approved by the faculty member whose lab you wish to join, Dr. Sorgen and Dr. Batra.