Research Rotation Program

Section II, Article 2

Rotations are short experiences in Emory research groups for the benefit of first year scholars. The rotation program is intended to acquaint scholars with the research and resources of the Department before they choose a research home for pursuing their PhD. All scholars are required to complete three rotations before joining a research group.

Updated August 2023

This page has been updated for Fall 2023 rotations.

Rotation structure

Group Exploration Period

Early August

The graduate program will provide instructions to faculty who intend to host rotators. Faculty accepting rotators must:

  • Provide a 1 page information sheet about the research group that includes the number of students they intend to accept into their group from the rotations cohort
  • Advertise at least one event to all eligible scholars via the graduate program Exploration Period schedule
  • Accept students in all three rotation periods*

*The graduate program has limited ability to accommodate specific requests from faculty for how and when rotators will be scheduled. Exceptions should be rare and requests should be made as soon as a conflict is known.

August 23 – September 13

Submission of Rotation Preferences

September 14 at 8 am

Scholars submit three unranked rotation choices to the Graduate Program Coordinator on the Group Exploration Period form. Faculty will have an opportunity to review the names of all scholars who have requested a rotation in their lab and indicate their response to the request to the Director of Graduate Studies.

Rotation Assignments and Notification

September 15

Scholars will be advised of the faculty response to rotation requests and receive a rotation schedule. Scholars who fall short of the required three rotations will be required to meet with the DGS to discuss their options and work to secure three rotation placements.


Rotation 1: September 18 – October 6
Rotation 2: October 9 – October 27
Rotation 3: October 30 – November 17

Discernment and Discussions

November 21 – November 30

Scholars meet with their rotation advisors during this time with the goal of finalizing their group selection. Faculty and scholars are encouraged to be candid about their goals during this period. However, group assignment is only finalized after the DGS has reviewed all the faculty commitments and the mentor/mentee agreement is filed.

Rotation logistics & etiquette 

Rotations – inclusive of the Exploration Period and group selection – are an opportunity to fully explore scientific opportunities at Emory and to join a group with confidence. However, the inherent uncertainty in this process can be stressful for scholars and faculty. Based on feedback from scholars, clear and consistent “rules of engagement” for both students and faculty help to ensure a positive rotation experience.

The following rules for rotation logistics and etiquette should guide faculty, current scholars, and rotating students:

All Activities
  • Scholars cannot be required or encouraged to miss TA commitments or classroom time; rotators should plan to engage in rotations in a manner that allows them to meet their TA commitments and attend classes. Faculty should ensure that rotation requirements account for these responsibilities.
  • Faculty and students are asked to confine their discussions of other groups to issues related to scientific work rather than group placement. This means that students and faculty should not discuss rotation outcomes, real or projected, of individuals who are not active participants in a given conversation.
  • In all communication about rotations, faculty, current students, and rotators are encouraged to remember that we are a part of a learning community. Feedback should be specific, growth-oriented, and constructive.
Exploration Activities
  • Events must be open to all eligible scholars
  • Events must take place on campus between the hours of 7am-7pm
  • Refreshments at events should be limited to light snacks and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Scholars should make a request, either in person or via email, to any faculty member with whom they intend to request a rotation. In turn, faculty should make themselves available for these discussions and respond promptly to email correspondence. Faculty are asked not to accept rotators that they are not willing to consider for placement in their group.
Rotation Activities
  • Faculty have considerable flexibility in assigning rotation activities. At a minimum, satisfactory completion of the rotation will require attendance at all group meetings, seminars, scholar seminars, and/or journal club activities scheduled during the rotation period. Faculty may set a minimum hour-per-week requirement for graduate scholar engagement.
  • During the time a scholar is engaged in a rotation, the scholar’s total research effort should be focused on that rotation. Faculty cannot require that scholars participate in research activities in a group outside their current rotation assignment. With these requirements in mind, scholars should feel free to participate broadly in the intellectual life of the department.
  • Existing lab members working with rotators may be asked to provide feedback to the primary research mentor regarding rotation performance. These discussions should, within reason, be considered confidential.
  • Faculty are encouraged to provide clear feedback related to performance during the rotation but to remind rotators that group selections cannot be made until the rotation period has concluded. At the risk of being prescriptive, we suggest that the following language would be appropriate: “I would be happy to discuss group placement with you at the end of the full rotation period.” Rotators, in turn, should not press faculty for a commitment prior to the conclusion of the rotation experience.
  • To accommodate the need for in-depth discussion about group placement, faculty should plan time to meet with rotators after rotations conclude and before the group selection deadline. Students should be proactive in scheduling these discussions.

Changes to rotation placements

A scholar may change their choice of the second and/or third rotation group during an earlier rotation. The steps to follow are:

  1. Discuss the intended change with the new rotation advisor and obtain their approval for the change in writing;
  2. Submit a petition to the graduate program stating the reasons for the requested change and including the correspondence with the new rotation advisor.
  3. The DGS will discuss the petition with the new intended rotation advisor and advise the scholar of the outcome. Requests to switch to any advisor participating in rotations and supported by the intended advisor will generally be approved.
  4. Upon approval, the scholar is expected to confirm with the new rotation advisor. The scholar is also expected to inform the previous rotation advisor of their decision to change their rotation schedule and to thank them for their engagement. This may be completed via email or in person.

Summer rotations

Scholars who have completed a summer rotation have two options for the fall semester:

  1. Request to repeat a rotation in the same group pending available space;
  2. Select three new rotation advisors, completing a total of four rotations.

Scholars enrolled during summer may not skip a fall rotation.

Note: Summer rotations are not an official activity of the graduate program. Scholars must be supported by an individual lab and enroll as non-degree seeking students.

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Next: Research Group Selection and Assignment