Choosing a Thesis Lab

This program is not currently scheduled

However, you can find resources like slides and recordings under Materials at the bottom of this page. To get announcements when this program is offered next, sign up to the OCPD listserv and be sure to open emails from "UCSF Office of Career and Professional Development"

This program is for first year students in basic and biomedical science PhD programs at UCSF.


By now in your scientific career you've taken lots of classes and learned lots of things, but none of them was how to choose your thesis lab. And yet, this decision has a huge impact on the course of your PhD and your career. That's where the Office of Career and Professional Development comes in!

Choosing a Thesis Lab is a program specifically for first year students in basic and biomedical science PhD programs. We'll walk you through the data you need to collect in order to make an informed decision about your thesis lab, help you think about your rotation experiences so far, and come up with a plan for how you will get the remaining data you need and make your decision. This program will be helpful to you regardless of the number of rotations you have completed or how close you are to making your thesis lab choice.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this workshop, you will be able to:

  • Describe what a "good fit" is for you
  • Explain why students often choose labs that are a bad fit for them
  • Organize your thinking about your rotations
  • Identify the questions you need answered before making a thesis lab choice
  • Articulate a plan for making your choice
  • Understand what your next steps are for the labs you do and do not want to join


Ray Care, PhD - Program Director, Office of Career and Professional Development and UCSF PhD alumna


If you missed the program, there are still lots of ways you can get support for choosing your thesis lab! Use these resources below, check out our first-year-focused peer teams for spring 2023, or schedule an appointment with a career counselor.

UCSF resources used in the workshop:
Slides from the workshop
Decision Matrix for Lab Rotations tool for comparing labs across criteria that are important to you
Preferences, Options, and Influences Tool (if the formatting looks cramped: 'select all' on the sheet, go to the Format menu -> Row -> Autofit)
Conducting Successful Rotations webpage resource developed by Dr. Ray Care and Dr. D'Anne Duncan
Faculty Development Participation Tracker tool maintained by Graduate Faculty Development Program

External resources we also recommend:
How to Be a Graduate Advisee paper by Indira Raman
How to Pick a Graduate Advisor paper by Ben Barres
Double Shelix podcast "Next Level Mentorship"

This program is part of the Workplace Navigation (formerly Manage Up) series.

A note about our virtual events: We would like to welcome you, as and where you are, to our virtual events. If there are times you just don’t want to be on camera, feel free to attend this event with your camera and mic off. If you prefer to switch on your camera and participate that’s great too. And if this event just won’t work for you please remember you can always make an appointment with us at any time. 

UCSF is committed to making its facilities, activities and events accessible. To request accommodations for this event, please contact Trish McGrath ([email protected]) at the Office of Career and Professional Development at least one week before the event.