Guest Blogger: Autumn Peterson Discussing Lab Rotations!

January 11, 2022

Hi Everyone and Happy New Years! I hope you are all healthy and safe as we begin our journey into 2022. Today I have an exciting guest blogger post to share with you written by Autumn Peterson! Autumn is a second year Biology Ph.D. Student at Georgia Tech studying the origin of multicellularity and yeast phototrophic systems.

Autumn Peterson

Autumn's advice for potential and current PhD Students:
Carefully take the time to decide which lab is best for you. Doing a Ph.D. is a commitment, so you want to make sure you are in a lab where you can see yourself thrive.  

Let's Talk Lab Rotations!
Lab rotations typically take place during the first year of your Ph.D. program, and allow you to experience various labs before deciding on which lab are best for you. Lab rotations can last anywhere from 6 weeks to a semester, and typically consist of small projects and/or working with a senior Ph.D. student/ Postdoc. 
Who are lab rotations for?
Lab rotations are beneficial to students who don’t have a solidified lab or advisor. When entering a Ph.D. program, you have the option of joining a lab directly or participating in lab rotations. Most people who join a lab directly have a prior relationship with that advisor, or know exactly what they want to do in terms of research interests. For many students, that’s not the case which is why rotating through different labs is beneficial. 
What to look for in a lab rotation?
Since lab rotations are relatively short, it is important to actively evaluate the lab dynamic and decide whether or not the lab is a good fit for you. How many people are in the lab? Do labmates collaborate with each other or is it mostly independent work? Are there any bonding activities outside of the lab? One of the best ways to get a sense of the lab environment is by interacting with current graduate students in the lab. They will typically provide honest feedback and share their experience with the advisor and position in the lab. 
You also want to pay attention to the advisor’s mentoring style. Will you work directly under him, or work with a Postdoc or senior Ph.D. student? Is the advisor hands-on or hands-off? What are the advisor’s expectations in the lab? Not only do these questions help provide insight on the lab dynamic, but also help figure out what you want from a mentor and lab environment. 
I participated in two rotations during the first year of my Ph.D. program. Both programs were vastly different in terms of mentorship style, size, and lab dynamic. My first rotation had a hands-on mentoring style, where I would work directly with the advisor on a consistent basis. The lab size was small, and because of COVID-19 (strict capacity protocols), it was difficult to interact with other students. My second rotation was still a hands-on approach, however, I was working with a post-doc. This was a big lab group that had students with diverse academic and personal backgrounds. We had weekly personal meetings and lab group meetings led by our advisor to ensure we were staying on track.  The lab dynamic was friendly and cohesive. I noticed several labmates collaborating on projects together, and any accomplishments and acceptances were always celebrated. After experiencing both rotations, I ended up joining the second lab group, and have been enjoying it ever since!
Check out Autumn's YouTube Channel Here:


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