Research Group Selection

Graduate students in chemistry generally select a research advisor during the first term of the program and begin thesis research by the beginning of the spring term.  Choosing an advisor is one of the most important decisions you will make during your graduate career. To assist first-year graduate students with this process, the department has developed several ways for students to become acquainted with potential advisors and research groups.

Desk Rotations
Many research labs have made desks available to first-year students at the beginning of the fall term. Each rotation will be at least three weeks in duration. The purpose of this program is to enable a more in depth interaction with senior graduate students and to provide and additional place to work and spend time on campus (in addition to the graduate student lounge). Participation in this program is entirely voluntary, and declining to participate has no bearing on the group selection process. Some research groups do not participate in the rotation program, often because all of the desks in that lab are committed. The faculty and students of non-participating groups, however, are available and happy to meet with first-year students to discuss research and group life. The desk rotation schedule is finalized over the summer and assignments are provided during orientation. For more information about desk rotations,  please contact Jennifer Weisman (jweisman@mit.edu).

Faculty Research Talks
Beginning in early September, most faculty members planning to accept new students will present an informal evening lecture for first-year graduate students designed to provide an overview of their research program.  After each lecture, refreshments are generally provided and first-year students will have an opportunity to meet members of that professor's research group.  First-year students are encouraged to attend as many of these presentations as possible, because they provide an excellent way to learn about current research in the department.  The schedule of evening research presentations will be posted online as soon as it is available, and distributed during graduate student orientation in late August.

Individual Meetings
In addition to attending evening research talks, first-year students must also make appointments to meet individually with those faculty whose work is of interest to them, in order to learn more about specific research underway in their laboratories.  Faculty will expect to hear from interested students. Many labs hold weekly research group meetings, and first-year students are encouraged to attend these meetings.  All students are expected to explore research opportunities with at least three different faculty members by meeting individually with the professor, but meeting with five is strongly encouraged. These individual meetings are in addition to attending the introductory evening research talk for first-year students. Having desk space in a research group's lab does not replace the requirement of having had serious interaction (speaking in depth with a faculty member about research or attending a faculty member's research presentation) with at least three different faculty members prior to making a decision about joining a group.

Visiting Labs & Talking with Students
In addition to attending group meetings, meeting with faculty, and attending evening faculty talks, at any time during the term (even before a professor's research talk), students are encouraged to visit labs to meet informally with graduate students and post-doctoral researchers.  In the “General Information” section of the graduate guide, there is a list of graduate students in many of the research groups who are available to serve as contacts to facilitate visits to their laboratories and to answer questions. The Faculty Research Talk schedule also includes several opportunities to meet with members of our student organizations and to ask questions about the research group selection process.

Submitting your Research Group Selection Form
The last step is for first-year students to decide which groups are their top choices for graduate research. Once a student has decided on his or her top choice of research group, the student should inform the faculty member that he or she is their top choice for group selection. If a research group is listed on the Research Group Selection Form as one of the three choices, it is expected that the student has already met with that faculty member. In order to minimize pressure on students to make a decision prematurely, no faculty member is permitted to accept a student into his or her research group until finalized by the Graduate Officer, or to make any advance commitments about joining his or her research group.  In addition, no student is permitted to conduct research during the fall term prior to the week of November 7, 2016.  Students must submit the Research Group Selection Form to the Chemistry Education Office (6-205) by Monday, October 31, 2016,

Please note that although it is not necessary for you to arrive at a first choice by October 31, 2016 many faculty commit all of the available openings in their lab that week.  Therefore, you should be sure to check with the faculty members in whom you are potentially interested to determine whether or not you will need to make a decision by October 31, 2016  in order to be considered for admission into that group.  In order to remain in good academic standing, all chemistry graduate students must be officially accepted into a research group by the end of their second term.

As soon as you have come to a decision about which groups are your top choices, you should inform those professors of your decision. On or before October 31, 2016 you must complete the Research Group Selection Form and submit it to the Chemistry Education Office. On the form, you must include the 3 - 5 research groups that you have explored and indicate which groups are your first, second, and third choices.

All graduate students submitting lists on October 31, 2016 will be notified of their research group assignments during the week of November 7, 2016 by Professor Field, Chair of the Graduate Committee.  No student will receive an assignment to a research group prior to notification from Professor Field.

Some students do not get their first choice of research laboratory.  While a disappointment at first, we have found that the second or even third choice of a student almost invariably works out for the student in the long run.  Students should go into the search process for a laboratory with an open mind and with the knowledge that we have a great faculty and there are more than one faculty members who can serve as your mentor. 

Occasionally, a student may wish to change his or her advisor. Each of these situations is different and students should consult with both Professor Field and Jennifer Weisman.