First Year Program
Orientation: Incoming students are required to attend Biophysics 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), which is the administrative home to the Graduate Fields of Biochemistry, Molecular & Cell Biology and Genetics, Genomics & Development, and specifically to the Field of Biophysics. 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 Biophysics 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.
At the beginning of the Fall semester, Biophysics graduate students attend Rotation Talks in which Biophysics 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 Biophysics 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. During your first year, any time away should be discussed with the DGS and your rotation supervisor(s). Consult Current Student Funding for details about funding and time away.
Recommended Timing for Rotation Periods
- First Rotation Period: September-December
- Second Rotation Period: December/January – March
- Third Rotation Period: March – May/June
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. At the end of each rotation, you should meet with the faculty; they should provide you with a written evaluation (Rotation Evaluation form) 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 consult with the DGS regarding the details of courses to be taken in the first year.
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 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 Field of Biophysics meets at the end of each year to evaluate the first year class. 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 Biophysics 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