Rotation Guidelines

Rotation guidelines are as follows:

  • Students are encouraged to use web resources and the current student body to explore possible labs before and during discussions with their advisors. Students are urged to consult multiple sources including current and previous laboratory members to gain a better idea of the laboratory’s approach to science and training and the success of previous trainees.

  • In order to take a rotation student, labs must have sufficient financial and personnel resources to support a PhD student for at least 2 years following lab declaration. Labs that cannot support a student and his/her/their training CANNOT have a rotation student. Rotation students will work with their first-year advisors and/or MTA Directors to select labs that can take rotation students. If a lab cannot support a student’s financial package, the student SHOULD NOT rotate in that lab. If there is no chance that they will be able to take the student in the lab, no matter how good and interesting the work is, the rotation will be a waste of the student’s time.

  • To facilitate and optimize the rotation experience for both the student and the faculty mentor, it is important that this student-faculty pair meet prior to the start of the rotation to discuss and align expectations, goals, requirements and laboratory guidelines. The discussion must be recorded on the Laboratory Rotation Agreement Form so that both the student and the rotation advisor are in agreement about what each expects from the other. The Form must be submitted at the beginning of the rotation.

  • During the laboratory rotation, the student has to be aware of the balance that needs to be maintained between research and study time for ongoing courses. Students are expected to spend an average of about 50% of their time (about 20 hours/week) on the laboratory rotation. Good time management can optimize the experience in that particular laboratory.

  • A “match” between student and lab is defined as an offer from the research mentor for the student to join the lab. This may be a hard yes, or could be pursuant to other conditions, such as the outcome of other rotation students in the research mentor’s lab.

  • Students with prior experience at Mount Sinai -

    1. PREP or MSBS students who matriculate into the PhD program can use their research time in place of a rotation.

    2. Former SURP scholars who have spent two summers at ISMMS and are now in the PhD program, can use that research time in place of a rotation.

    3. Staff who become PhD students and who feel it necessary to do a rotation in their lab of employment before deciding to join that lab, may not do so until after completing a rotation in another lab. If, on the other hand, the student and the research mentor are confident about joining the lab of employment, other rotations are not strictly required.

  • Starting in week 3 of the rotation, the research mentor and student should review progress and the possibility of joining the lab. This does not have to be a detailed conversation, but can be a simple update, and has three possible outcomes regarding joining the lab: yes, no, or maybe. If either the research mentor or the student has a firm idea that the lab is not a good match, the rotation should be terminated immediately. If the research mentor and the student believe it is a good match, it is recommended that the rotation continue for the full 6-8-week duration to ensure the lab continues to be a good fit. At some time during the final weeks of the rotation, terms for joining the lab should be reached, a Laboratory Rotation Evaluation form should be completed and turned in to the Graduate School, a lab Dissertation Advisor - MTA Declaration Form should be completed and turned in to the Graduate School, and the student should cancel other planned rotations. Finally, if either person is unsure if the lab is a good fit (and the other is not a “no”), the rotation should be continued with check-ins, as outlined above, occurring every week. The outcome of these discussions should be conveyed by the students to their first-year advisors and/or MTA co-directors.

  • When rotations end, regardless of whether the lab is a match or not, a Laboratory Rotation Evaluation form must be completed by the student and rotation advisor and filed with the Graduate School.

  • When the student is the person deciding the lab is not a match, it is customary for the student to provide the rotation advisor with a brief explanation of the reason why the match does not work. While this is not a strict requirement, it is recommended because it is important to remain in good communication with one's rotation advisor.

  • The maximum time for a rotation is typically 6-8 weeks. An extension would be considered if there were circumstances that warrant one. A request for an extension should be made in writing, via email, to the PhD Program Manager.

  • In some cases, rotations will span winter or spring breaks. When this occurs, the time off does not count towards the rotation.

  • The schedule outlined above would permit up to four rotations (if needed) prior to spring break, although three rotations is more typical.

  • Rotation times could be shortened further if the student is not taking classes while rotating because the student can work full time in the lab instead of balancing lab with class time.

  • While it is acceptable to join a lab after one successful rotation, students are encouraged to find two matches before terminating rotations and joining a lab.

  • Individual MTAs may require rotation presentations. Presentations may not be synchronized with the end of each rotation, so students should be prepared to describe work that they may have concluded weeks earlier.

  • Grading of rotations will be on a Pass/Fail basis. If a student in the PhD in Biomedical Sciences or Neuroscience programs is not accepted into a laboratory by the conclusion of the second semester (fourth semester for MD/PhD students), he/she/they will be reviewed by the Committee for Academic Review for a failure to make satisfactory academic progress. Dismissal from the program is a possible outcome of this review.

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