First Year Program

Orientation:  Incoming students are required to attend BMCB Orientation, which generally takes place the week before classes start.  During this time, students will complete required training and paperwork necessary for their program.  It is our goal to have administrative requirements completed before the start of classes in order to allow students to concentrate on the academic part of their program.

Included in the mix with administrative requirements and training are activities designed to welcome you into the Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics (MBG) and the Field of BMCB.  The BMCB Graduate Student Association and the BMCB Buddies will have social programs for incoming students.  The MBG Annual Picnic is held at the beginning of the fall semester and is a good way to meet the students, staff, and faculty in an informal, non-lab setting.

Rotations:  All graduate students in BMCB are required to complete three rotations during their first year in the program.  Rotations provide an opportunity to explore areas for possible Ph.D. thesis research.  In addition, both students and faculty are able to test possible working relationships.

During the first half of the Fall semester, BMCB students meet as a group twice a week for Rotation Talks in which BMCB faculty who are actively seeking graduate students discuss their research.  All first-year students are expected to attend all of these talks.  

To arrange for laboratory rotations, students should discuss the possibility of a rotation with individual faculty and arrange to rotate in the interested lab at a mutually agreed-upon time.  At the end of the rotation talk period, students should have decided on their first rotation.  Each rotation should be ~8 weeks in length and all should be carried out in the lab of a BMCB faculty member.  The exact timing is flexible and can be worked out between the faculty and student.

Please note that graduate students do not follow the undergraduate academic calendar.  Because you are paid a twelve-month stipend, you are expected to be active in academics and/or research unless the university itself is closed.  Any time away should be discussed with the DGS during your fist year and your Special Committee Chair in subsequent years.

Recommended Timing for Rotation Periods

  • First Rotation Period:  mid-October – mid-December
  • Second Rotation Period:  early January – early March
  • Third Rotation Period:  early March – early May

What is expected of a graduate student on rotation?

While no one objects to a graduate student completing a project and writing a paper for publication during a rotation, no one expects it either!  What is expected is self-motivated earnest effort, independent thinking, and the fullest participation possible in the intellectual life of the laboratory, culminating in a written description of the project and record of the progress made.  You should have a frank discussion of lab expectations at the beginning of each rotation and again at the end for an evaluation and constructive feedback on the rotation.  Regular communication with your faculty supervisor(s), and, in subsequent years, your Special Committee, is a vital component of your success.  

Usually, by the end of the third rotation, you will have had a conversation with faculty whose lab you are interested in joining for your thesis research.  Please note, faculty should not commit to accepting a student into their lab until the last day of classes in Spring semester (usually early May).  This is designed to ensure all students have the fair chance of completing their third rotation before faculty make their final decisions.  However, students are encouraged to have a clear and honest discussion with interested faculty about the possibility of joining their labs ahead of time, in order to gauge the likelihood of joining a particular lab, and whether a summer rotation will be necessary.  Students who want to initiate the fourth rotation in the summer months should consult with the DGS.  

All first-year students are expected to have been accepted into a lab by August 15, i.e. by one year after they have enrolled.  Rotations cannot be extended beyond that time.  

First Year Assessment

The evaluation of first-year students is based on grades received from courses taken and rotation evaluations.  Students should refer to the Curriculum section of the web site for details of courses to be taken in the first year.  Students are expected to take a minimum of 4.5 credits of GRADED courses each semester during their 1st year in the program.

Rotation Evaluations:  Supervising faculty in each rotation are required to meet with the student to discuss rotation performance at the end of each rotation.  Constructive feedback is important for students and will help them not only in subsequent rotations but also in their graduate program.  A Rotation Evaluation Form (see Appendix II) must be filled out by the faculty and the signed copy given to the GRA.  
These evaluations are vital to the evaluation of the first-year class.  The BMCB Advisory Committee meets at the end of each year to evaluate the first year class. Their recommendations will be discussed by the entire BMCB Field faculty at the annual field meeting.  Results of the evaluation are communicated to the first year students by a formal letter from the DGS.  Anyone who is judged not to have made satisfactory progress is asked to leave the program.

In the absence of persuasive mitigating circumstances, students with the following performance in their first two semesters will be asked to leave the BMCB program:  

    • Two or more ‘failed’ rotations
    • OR Two C grades in core courses
    • OR One C grade in core courses AND one failed rotation
    • OR Cumulative GPA < 3.0 in core courses AND one failed rotation