The purpose of the lab rotations is to get experience in specific laboratories that will eventually lead to the choice of a thesis laboratory. Such experience goes far beyond learning techniques; it is an opportunity for the student to determine whether he/she is compatible with the lab and the mentor. Rotations also provide the student with the opportunity to explore areas in which she/he may have interest but no direct research experience. Students are required to do a minimum of three different lab rotations, and a student can do additional rotations if necessary to find a compatible lab for thesis research. Of the three rotations, at least one project must be working in a "wet lab".
The minimum period for a rotation is 11 weeks, and students are expected to spend a minimum of 25 hours per week in their rotation lab. One rotation may be done in the summer before the beginning of the first year or during the summer between the first and second years. The first rotation begins during the final week in September, the second during the first week in January, and the third during the last week in March. Thus, in the 2011-2012 academic year, there will be one 11 week rotation in the fall term, which must start no later than September 26th, and two 11-week rotations in the spring, the first starting no later than January 3rd and the second starting March 27th.
All rotations are arranged between the student and the faculty mentor and are subject to approval by the Graduate Group Chair and the Advising Committee. New students should begin thinking about their first rotation before arriving at Penn. Once at Penn, these choices should be explored by talking to students and conferring with the Advising Committee. The students should then make a short list of faculty with whom they wish to work and set up appointments to talk to the faculty about their research, possible rotation projects and the possibility of working in their laboratories. When a rotation is agreed upon the student and faculty member should meet to discuss and clearly define the goals of the project. A description of the project should be sent to the graduate group coordinator for the student's file, and the project should commence as soon as possible. During the first rotation the student should begin planning subsequent rotations. Upon completion of a rotation, the rotation advisor must submit a grade and a written evaluation of the student's performance.