Research Rotations

Each MD-PhD student must complete a minimum of two research rotations. While we do not require that students complete a rotation before starting their first year of medical school, this is highly recommended. We have found that those students who choose to complete a research rotation before starting medical school tend to have a somewhat easier transition into graduate school. It can also make for an easier transition to Chapel Hill and gives you time to get settled before starting medical school. 

MD-PhD students who have already completed one year of medical school and one research rotation will have the option of completing two shorter (5-6 week) rotations rather than one longer (10-12 week) rotation.

After you have completed your first rotation, you are expected to turn in a written abstract. After your second rotation, you are expected to turn in a written abstract and give a poster presentation. The professors who served as summer mentors will evaluate your poster presentation. In addition, each mentor will turn in a summary evaluation describing your experience in his or her lab.

Note for the Computer Science rotation: If you are considering the computer science department for your PhD, you will need to take your first rotation in that department. Computer Science at UNC is a highly competitive department. They reserve the right not to enroll MD-PhD students into their PhD program who they feel are not competitive with their own applicant pool.

Summer Rotations and “Lunch & Learn” Series

All first and second year MD-PhD students conducting summer research rotations are asked to participate in our “Lunch & Learn” series called: “Rotons of the MSTP.” At each luncheon, three 10-minute talks are given by these students. In this setting, the rotation students are able to hear about the research being conducted by their peers, and learn about good scientific presentation skills. Each speaker is asked to bring his or her PI as well as other senior members of the lab, to encourage and enrich the dialogue.

Finding Research Mentors 

The MD-PhD Program Leadership Team will assist you in the process of finding a research mentor, but it is up to you to follow up with the individual researchers. Your fellow MD-PhDs are another a great resource for rotation recommendations. 

A list of rotation and dissertation mentors are available on our program’s Sakai site

Once rotation mentors have been selected, the MD-PhD program will prepare a letter for the mentor outlining our expectations of your rotation experience. After your PhD thesis advisor has been confirmed, the MD-PhD program will work with you and your advisor to ensure a smooth transition into the chosen graduate department. 

The following resources my be helpful in identifying research mentors:

  • Biomedical and Biological Sciences List of Faculty: A list of the BBSP participating faculty members. You can search by PhD program or research interest.
  • Research Abstracts Database: You can search the abstracts for all grant applications being submitted by UNC faculty members.
  • Department Listing: You can review individual departments to locate faculty.
  • UNC Graduate School degree programs listing: All degree programs offered through the UNC Graduate School are listed here. This is a good way to find departmental faculty lists in a variety of disciplines.