Introduction to Graduate Research:

Research Rotation Course

University of Michigan, Department of Chemistry

Typical First Year Experience in a Chemistry Graduate Program

The breadth and uniformity of undergraduate chemistry programs, entering chemistry graduate students tend to indentify with on e the the standard sub-disciplinary areas (analytical, inorganic, physical, organic). During their first semester of graduate school, students generally hold a teaching position and are clustered together ina common office space. They usually interview with a large fraction of faculty in the preferred sub-discipline area, and ultimately, generally before the end of the first semester of graduate school, submit a ranked list of the research groups i which the student wants to pursue thesis work. The matching process is often a negotiated compromise between the students' lists, the faculty advisors, the graduate committee, and the department chair.

Research Rotations

Research roatations are a process by which entering graduate students join an ongoing research group for a period (a 'unit of roation' of 4-6 weeks is typical) Rotating through multiple laboratorie, gettign hands-on experience prior to making the final request for a research group, is commonplace in the biological sciences, where the research techniques and areas of interest are broad, varied, and difficult to represent comprehensively in the undergraduate program. After a sememster of short rotations, or up to an academic year of longer ones, the mathching process takes place and the students begin their thesis work.

Rotations in Chemistry Departments

In recent years, a few chemistry departments have begun to implement research roations in their graduate education programs. The growth of interdisciplinary research areas in bio-related chemistry and materials sciences has resulted in training grant programs the generally require research rotations as a way to espose students to the different disciplinary areas from which the interdisciplinary thesis work will derive. In this way, departments of chemistry have gained exposure and familiarity with research rotations.

University of Michigan Research Rotation Program

Research rotations within the chemistry department at the University of Michigan are a part of all entering graduate students educational experience, a required course. Entering graduate students participate in two semester long research rotations. Ideally, rotations are in different labs and exposefirst year students to a broader range of senior graduate students and additional faculty members as mentors for aiding in strengthing and integrating first year students into the community of the department.

Survey on the Research Rotation Program

In colaboration with Professor Janet Lawrence, Center for the Study of Higher and Post-Secondary Education, an survey of research rotations at the University of Michigan is underway. A collaboration effort is vital for ensureing experts in the corresponding area are involved and the chemistry department does not include their preconceived view of what the evaluation will show. Additionally, a degree of separation provides assurances of animinity for graduate students. During the Fall 2004 - Winter 2005 academic year, composition of the student body provides a uniquie setting for conducting an survey, as the research rotation program is in the fourth year at this time. The fifth year cohort, and above, did not participate in research rotations, many have served in the capacity as mentoring graduate students for rotating students and these cohorts are now PhD candidates. The fourth and third year cohorts have participated in reseach rotations in the initial implimentation period, and currently these cohorts may be encountered as mentors for rotating students. The second and first year cohorts have recently experienced research rotations, and are not PhD candidates at this time.


Now that three cohorts of graduate students have progressed through research rotations, and a fourth cohort is participating, the chemistry department wishes to survey students about the impact of the research roation experience on students' academic preparaation, sense of community within the department, relationships with collegues and perception of the fairness and transcparency of research roation matching process. The initial phase of the survey involes a snapshot of the current graduate student composition. Univeristy of Michigan is one of a select number of chemistry departments incorporating research rotations as an integral part of graduate student education. The survey will assist department leadership in making changes to address deficiences in this model of research rotations and improve the experience of graduate students. Additionally, appropriate and pertinate survey results will be posted upon completion of data annalysis, anticipated time frame of may 2005.


Department Page


Town Hall Meetings Page

This electronic portfolio was created using the KML Snapshot Tool™, a part of the KEEP Toolkit™,
developed at the Knowledge Media Lab of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Terms of Use - Privacy Policy