Rotation Talk

The rotation talk and preliminary exam are tools used to assess the organizational and conceptual abilities of the student in the context of his/her practical experience in the laboratory. The IGG faculty expect that each student will show evidence of his/her knowledge of immunological concepts that are consistent with his/her level in the program. The rotation talk and preliminary exam are administered by members of the IGG Candidacy Exam Committee. Both experiences serve as forums for faculty to evaluate the student’s knowledge of immunology, but they are different in terms of the depth of expertise required of the student.


The Rotation Talk is a short, chalk talk-style presentation in a closed session before a committee composed of IGG faculty. PhD students give this talk after the second laboratory rotation, usually at the beginning of the fall semester of the second year. Combined degree students typically give this talk at the end of the fall semester of the first year.


The Rotation Talk is used to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the individual student at a point in the training process where changes can be made in the course of study to accommodate his/her needs. Most students find this talk to be useful in practicing their presentation skills and in preparing for the Preliminary/Candidacy Exam.


During the presentation, the student must convey an understanding of the rationale for the second laboratory rotation and a plan for future experiments. If data are presented, the student must analyze them critically. The student may not use projection or overhead slides, but may give the committee a two-page handout. The committee will ask general concept questions to help them assess the student’s knowledge of immunology.

The handout should be created with these formatting restrictions: 

  • Font size – Arial, 11 point or Times New Roman, 12 point
  • Margins – 0.5 inches
  • Spacing – single, double or other spacing is fine.


The committee will send the student an assessment of his/her performance on the Rotation Talk. There is no graded component.


  • You will be required to provide a 12- to 15-minute presentation.
  • You can provide the committee with a two-page handout. You may use the white board. 
  • You will be expected to:
    • Have a hypothesis
    • Provide enough background for the committee (no more than five minutes)
    • Tell the committee, concretely, what experiment you performed and what data you gathered
    • Discuss your data: if your experiments didn’t result in data, explain this to the committee. Don’t claim that your data is significant if it is not. Data accumulation is not the major goal, understanding why you did an experiment and how to interpret what happened is.
    • Communicate the technical and biological conclusions
    • Provide a brief description of a possible future direction


  • The committee is composed of four faculty members.
  • You may be asked about related literature. 
  • Take your time answering questions. You can say “I don’t understand your question” or “Are you asking me this…”
  • The committee will talk with your rotation PI about your performance in the lab. Were you present in the lab? Did you participate in lab meetings? Did you read, etc.?


  • Talk with the advanced students for tips about the written documents.
  • Be sure to practice your presentation and look at your data with others in advance of the talk. 
  • Current second-year students typically coordinate practice talks.