Lab Rotations and Research

Laboratory Rotations

You must complete at least 3 lab rotations during your first year before choosing your dissertation mentor. Rotations provide an opportunity to sample the lab environment, assess available research projects, and determine if the mentor will be suitable as a Ph.D. advisor.

Orientation and Selection

Each faculty member gives a 15 minute presentation about their research during the first week, and you must personally meet with at least 5 possible mentors prior to selecting one before each required rotation (total of at least 15) in order to help you select the best possible mentors and to expose you to the wide range of research being conducted in the program and the graduate division.

See Rotation Selection Procedures and Forms (PDF) for details and the forms to turn in.

You may optionally take a fourth rotation during the summer after your first year. Alternatively, you may complete your first rotation during the summer before your first year and either join a lab early or complete an optional 4th rotation in the spring.

Rotation Report

At the end of your rotation, you must write up a report on your activities during the rotation in a scientific format: Rotation Report Format Guidelines (PDF)

Rotation report samples:

Rotation reports are graded by one senior graduate student and one faculty member on the Rotation Committee. Their grades and comments will be returned to you so you can get detailed feedback. The grade for each rotation is the average of your mentor's grade and the rotation committee's grade, and the grade for the course is the average of the three rotation grades.

Choosing Your Mentor

During the course of your rotations you should be exploring the possibility of doing your dissertation in one of the rotation labs. By the end of the last rotation you should have a very good idea of where you want to continue your research. Discuss possibilities with your rotation advisors. You will be asked for your selection in late April to early May.

Your responsibilities: With your mentor, complete the Mentor Selection Agreement Form (PDF) and the BCDB Addendum (PDF). Both forms must be submitted on paper to the BCDB Program Office.

Your mentor's responsibilities: Your mentor will be requested to complete the Documentation of Funding Sources for BCDB Mentors (DOC) form to document that they can support you as a graduate student, which must be submitted electronically to the BCDB Program Office.

Dissertation Committee


You must choose your dissertation committee by the end of the Fall of your 2nd year. The committee must have 5 members: your advisor, at least 3 faculty members from the BCDB Program, and if possible, one faculty member from outside the program. In certain cases, the outside member may be the Ph.D. advisor.


Your first committee meeting should be held within 6 months of passing the Qualifying Exam Part II, if possible after your Advanced Seminar presentation.

Committee meetings must be held every 6 months through the 5th year, and every 4 months thereafter.

As the student, you are responsible for scheduling the meeting and reserving a room. You should start scheduling your meeting 1-2 months beforehand to account for faculty members' schedules, and you must prepare and submit a written summary of what has happened since the previous meeting (not just research) along with an agenda of what you would like to accomplish at the meeting and an updated NIH-style biosketch (DOC). Scheduling services like Doodle may be useful for coordinating everyone's schedules.

Try to reserve a room in your own lab's department first, because you will have priority.

Tip: If you use Outlook or Outlook Web App, you can view the current calendar for RRC 4052. Open a shared calendar called "_BiochemRRC4052". Unfortunately, the other rooms are not online.

Presenting Your Research

The BCDB program provides many opportunities for you to present your research:

Many labs have regular meetings or collaborative groups which provide students the opportunity to frequently practice their presentation skills and seek feedback on their research.

The Advanced Graduate Seminar course provides students an opportunity to present a 30-minute talk on the current state of their research to the BCDB program faculty and students and receive feedback and advice.

Once a year, the Division Students Advisory Council (DSAC) sponsors a research symposium where GDBBS students present posters and talks on their research to other members of the Emory community. A group of Division faculty serve as judges and give out awards (including cash awards) for the best posters and presentations.

GDBBS and Laney Graduate School jointly provide funding through the Professional Development Support Funds for travel to conferences for students to publicly present their research to the broader research community. Many of our students also obtain external fellowships that provide travel funds.

As you prepare your research for public presentation either as a poster, PowerPoint, or publication, you will need to be able to convert data into formal figures. One of our students, Benjamin Nanes, put together a workflow for generating figures that you may find useful.