Rotations form a central component of the Systems Biology Training Program and are designed to provide hands-on experience in areas outside a student's traditional training program.
Students will participate in lab rotations *within their team*, for Systems Biology, such "teams" or "groups" usually involve one or more basic life science researchers, quantitative scientists (statisticians, computer scientists, mathematicians) and technology developers (individuals who develop or use high-throughput technologies).
For instance, students from life sciences may spend a three-month rotation receiving technical training in gene microarray profiling, and then will spend another rotation learning the bioinformatic techniques for properly analyzing the data. Thus, at the end of the rotation, the student will have initiated a project from the bench, performed the technical work of gene profiling, and will have performed advanced analysis of the data.
A student from the quantitative sciences, on the other hand, will have the opportunities to gain experience in wet lab and technical work. For instance, a student working within a cancer group would perform a rotation in a wet-lab, where she will learn techniques for culturing and manipulating cells and tissues. She will then learn technologies like laser-capture microdissection and gene expression profiling, which she will perform with her own samples. In the end, she will perform the analysis which forms the basis of her training, but she will have been exposed to the methods and techniques involved in sample preparation and manipulation.
Finally, students from technological sciences can gain important hands-on health research experience through the training program. A chemistry student, for instance, would have the opportunity to apply his expertise to a drug-development systems biology project. This student might collaborate with a wet-lab to perform high-throughput drug assays against a disease cell model. On a second rotation, the student would cooperate with quantitative scientists to analyze the data from the high-throughput screen, and to optimize the screen for further testing. The student can then apply his chemical expertise by synthesizing analogues of lead compounds or derivatives for structure-activity analysis.
By participating in all three elements of their projects, these students will receive a much more in-depth education than he would receive if he simply collaborated with others at arm’s-length.