Group Joining Procedure – Ph.D.

Choosing Research Groups for Rotations

The choice of a research group is the most important decision you will make in your first semester of graduate school. Get an early start on thinking about which groups you might want to join. Collect information from a wide variety of sources including the faculty, the graduate students, publications, websites, and faculty talks during Orientation. Carry out rotations in, and attend the meetings of, the groups in which you are most interested.

Students are required to carry out three rotations and are encouraged to interact with 5-10 different faculty members before making their decision. As the student narrows down their choice of groups, be sure to discuss with the faculty members whether they are taking students onto the projects in which you are interested.

Chemistry and chemistry-affiliated faculty members will present short talks on their research during Orientation. These talks will introduce the student to the research group, but the talks should NOT serve as the sole basis for choosing rotation laboratories. The student should consider the following questions to help make the decision about which group to rotate with and ultimately join:

  • Is the group right for you scientifically? Does the research interest you? Are you excited about the group’s approach to science? Are there several projects you would be eager to work on? Are there instruments or techniques that interest you? Is the faculty member accepting students on the project(s) you are interested in?
  • Is the group right for your personality? Is the group size comfortable for you? Is the group dynamic right for you? Are you comfortable with the people? (Keep in mind that groups change as students come and go; you will interact longest with students who are closest to you in terms of years in the program.)
  • Does the faculty member communicate well with you? Do you like the faculty member’s management style? Will you work successfully with this faculty member as your research advisor?

Laboratory Rotations

The goal of laboratory rotations is to optimize the process of matching first-year graduate students and faculty research groups. Through rotations, new students will gain first-hand knowledge about the research, intellectual approaches, and the environment found within the different research groups. The first-year students are required to carry out three rotations in different groups.  The rotation periods are for 3 weeks. Before the rotations, there will be an exploration period so the students can explore groups through informal meetings and conversations.  These interactions will help the students decide on their choice of rotation groups. For 2021 the rotations are

  • Group Exploration Period: September 1 –  October 1
  • Rotation 1: October 4 – October 22
  • Rotation 2: October 25 – November 12
  • Rotation 3: November 15 – December 3
  • Rotation 4: optional; format determined by need

During these rotations the student will have the following opportunities: 1) discuss the research, laboratory, and potential projects with the faculty member; 2) interact with students in the faculty member’s laboratory; and 3) attend group meetings and/or any associated super-group meetings (schedules permitting). Depending upon the faculty member and student schedule, the student may also engage in research and/or read faculty research papers. The student should contact the faculty member as soon as the rotation is assigned to devise a plan to gain familiarity with the group and research.

During the rotations, students are also free to interact with other research groups, e.g., discuss the research and attend group meetings, etc.

Fall 2020 Group Rotation Posters can be found here (chemistry login credentials required. Contact comphelp@chem.wisc.edu if you need access).

Exploration Period

Students are encouraged to meet with at least 6 research groups (either the faculty member and/or students in the group) whose research interests them. These meeting should occur in August and September to help the student to narrow down the groups for rotations. These meeting are in addition to the rotations. The list of research groups accepting students for fall 2021 is here.  The google form to identify the research groups that students met with is here. Please complete the google form by Friday, October 1.

Assignment of Rotations

Prior to each rotation, students will provide a ranked list of the top three faculty preferences (Rotation Form). If a student would like to rotate with a faculty member who is not affiliated with the chemistry department, please confirm with that faculty member if they are familiar with the chemistry rotation/group-joining procedure and if they are willing to have you rotate. Please add a note to the comment box that you contacted the faculty member. A committee will make the rotation assignments and will try to accommodate student preferences in making assignments. Students who do not get their first choice in rotation #1 will be given preference when selections are made in rotation #2. Students will not be able to rotate with a research group more than once. Rotations are assigned sequentially, so that if the student’s research interests change, the student can change lab preferences accordingly. The due dates for rotation preferences for 2021 are

  • Rotation #1 choices due on Thursday, September 30 at 9 a.m.
  • Rotation #2 choices due on Thursday, October 21 at 9 a.m.
  • Rotation #3 choices due on Thursday, November 11 at 9 a.m.
  • Rotation #4 optional, format determined by need

If a student has not chosen a laboratory after the three rotations, there is an option to conduct a fourth rotation.

There is no obligation that students join a laboratory in which they conducted a rotation – the student can join any laboratory upon mutual agreement with the relevant faculty member.

Matching of Student and Research Group

Initial Step

By the designated date (Sunday, December 5, 2021 at noon), first-year students submit a ranked list of 3-5 faculty research advisor selections to the Graduate Program Office (GPO).

Round 1

  • Faculty research advisors (also referred to as principal investigator, PI), are informed of interested students (with rankings unspecified) by the GPO.
  • PIs rate interested students (within 24 hours) as potentially acceptable (e.g., dependent on space or funding) or not acceptable. PIs can (should) rate more students as potentially acceptable than there are available positions.
  • PIs indicate maximum number of openings in their group and any contingencies that may affect that number.
  • Preliminary match is made between student’s top choice and PI, if PI has ranked student potentially acceptable; facilitated by the GPO; The PI must ratify the match.
  • PI commits—DONE (SUCCESSFUL MATCH)
  • Unmatched students go to Round 2.

Round 2

  • PIs indicate a firm YES or NO for each remaining potentially acceptable student.
  • Student gets their next highest ranked match if PI has indicated a firm YES; facilitated by the GPO; PI must ratify the match.
  • PI commits—DONE (SUCCESSFUL MATCH)
  • Students are informed of matches within 1 week of submission of ranked PI choices.

The path chair or associate chair of graduate program will advise unmatched students remaining after Round 2. It is anticipated that this will be a small number of students.

The major role of the GPO in this process is to communicate student and faculty preferences efficiently and to coordinate these preferences to result in optimal matches. Student preferences have priority. Matches are initiated by students and finalized by faculty.