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Scott Barolo @sbarolo
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Since I just shared these tips with the incoming @umpibs PhD class, I might as well post them here too:

HOW TO WIN AT RESEARCH ROTATIONS [a thread] 🔬💪
#1 (of 12): Get out of your comfort zone.

You're getting paid to try new things this year, so try new things! Jump into a research area you don't know much about. Even if you end up not joining that lab, you will learn a TON, make new connections and maybe spark future collabs.
#2: Discuss expectations and goals with your rotation mentor. Communicate!

When PhD students run into trouble, surprisingly often it's because of poor communication at some level. Good mentors & good mentees teach each other how to communicate well as a pair.
#3. If you get a bad feeling from the mentor or the lab, think about whether you really want to continue the rotation. Come talk to me (or your local program director or supportive staff member or SOMEBODY). It's okay to change to a new lab. Your rotation time is precious.
#4. Work hard.

Part of your job as a roton is to demonstrate your potential value to the lab, & this is one key element. Don't endanger your health by working beyond what's reasonable! But you do need to show that you don't just like "being a scientist," you like DOING SCIENCE.
#5. Read papers, especially your rotation lab’s recent ones.

Think about them. Ask about them. Try to make connections. This will probably be awkward at first. It's much better to look awkward and ignorant than disengaged and complacent.
#6. Take lab safety seriously. Be a good lab citizen.

Lab members often have a lot of say in who will get an offer to join their lab. Nobody wants to share a bay with a slob, reagent-hoarder, chemical-waste menace or centrifuge-exploder.
#7. Demonstrate your value as a lab colleague. Talk to people.

Be curious, interested and friendly. Offer to help. If you can bear it, go to happy hour (bowling/coffee/etc) once in a while. Labmates should be able to picture you as a future colleague, not just a good student.
#8. Ask questions.
#9. If you don’t understand something, think about it, read about it, and/or ask about it.

Not getting things right away is fine. But the PI needs to know that when you don't get something, you're willing to try to correct that. People who don't do that don't learn.
#10. Make mistakes—but try not to make the same mistake twice.

If you don't make mistakes in a new lab, you're probably not trying very hard and you're definitely not learning much. What matters is how you deal with screw-ups and what you learn from them.
#11. If you don’t feel welcome, safe, and respected in the lab, talk to someone about it* (such as your program director or staff).

We will get you out of there and into a better lab. Mentors who don't create safe and respectful lab environments shouldn't have students.
*A note about #11: be aware that if you report Title IX violations (incl. sex discrimination, harassment, misconduct) to a faculty or staff, they may be *required* to report it to the U's Title IX Coordinator. This is too much to cover in a tweet, but look up your U's rules.
#12. Do your best in every rotation, whether you expect to join that lab or not.

Trust me—for at least four very good reasons, never half-ass any rotation, no matter how boring it may be to you. Get what you can from it and make them miss you when you leave.
🚨 BONUS ROTATION TIP 🚨

Remember, you're not just being evaluated by the mentor and the lab—YOU'RE EVALUATING THEM TOO. Don't sell yourself short—you wouldn't have gotten into grad school if you didn't have a LOT to offer. Be choosy (but not cocky)!

/end
Feel free to add your own advice to this thread!
Thanks for the great additions to my list of rotation tips! Here’s a very smart advice thread for first-year PhD students that goes beyond rotations:
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