At the end of the course, the student has
- learned various practical research skills
- acquired knowledge of the contents of ongoing research
- acquired hands-on experience in carrying out academic research.
The course is not a taught class. Students learn in the course of their work as an intern in a research team. The supervisors, in consultation with the student and with the coordinators of the Research Master program, decide at the beginning what work needs to be undertaken in order to justify the 6 ECTS. An important consideration is that the work needs to target the student’s further career chances: the student needs to learn useful skills and will preferably work towards output that helps building an academic resume, such as a conference presentation or a published paper.
The course is scheduled for the third and fourth blocks of the first year (3 ECTS per block), but in actual practice the supervisor and student work out an optimal time schedule, taking account the timing of the work that needs to be done and the availability of the various people involved. This means that Lab Rotation can start earlier than the third block, end later than the fourth, or be condensed into a shorter period. The student hands in a portfolio with a description of the work undertaken and containing samples of that work at the end of the course, to be graded by the supervisor and a second reader who is not part of the research team.
Grading criteria Lab Rotation 1
At the end of the course, the student puts together a portfolio containing the list of seminars attended, the essay (see above), the research proposal, a description of the work done on the research project so far, and a log of meetings attended and activities carried out. An Appendix may be added containing samples of the work that has been done. The nature of the work may necessitate various kinds of output. Because of this variability, the guidelines for grading are kept relatively abstract. The portfolio is graded by the supervisor or by another senior member of the team, and by a second reader. The second reader should not be part of the team (in many cases this will be one of the course coordinators).
- Clarity of the text: is it clear from the description what work has been undertaken? Is it clear which skills needed to be learned and how this was done?
- Volume of the work: Does the work done justify the time investment in terms of credit points? Did the student stick to the planning, or if the planning proved unrealistic, did he or she adjust it accordingly?
- Informativeness of the appendices: do the samples presented give sufficient indication of the output?
- Quality of the work: exact assessment criteria depend on the type of work that was done.
- Research skills: if new skills had to be learned, did the student learn them well and in timely fashion? Was the degree of supervision needed below, on, or above average?
- Content knowledge: Did the student show enough knowledge of the theoretical and empirical issues that form the context of the research? If a learning effort was needed, did the student do well in increasing his or her knowledge? Did the student attend sufficient relevant seminars, workshops etc.? Do the notes show that the student grasped the essence of the presentations?
- Research cycle: Was the student a fully functional member of the research team? Does the research proposal show insight into the various tasks that go into the execution of a research project?
- Reporting: What is the quality of the essay about the research environment, in terms of the usual indicators for a term or review paper: clarity, coverage, engagement with theory, and care taken in editing the text?
- If necessary, the grade thus settled on is adjusted upward or downward by the supervisor on the basis of his/her general impression of how the student conducted the work required of him/her. Was excessive instruction and motivation needed? Did the student show initiative? Did the student stick to deadlines? Was the student a team player? Did the work have to be checked for errors a lot?
Students become interns in a research environment at Tilburg and/or Radboud University (such as a PI group, a department, or an ad-hoc combination of related research projects), become familiarized with the research being done in that group, and carry out a small project under the supervision of one or more senior researchers within the group. The class consists of three components, i.e. three research activities students carry out in the context of their internship. Together they are credited with 6 ECTS; taken together with Lab Rotation 2, in which the internship is rounded off or followed up by a second one, students take part in one or more local research projects for 15 ECTS.
Before the beginning of this class, and following up on the outcome of Research Orientation (in which students chose there research environment of choice and formulated a first project proposal), the student chooses a research environment and approaches one of the senior researchers in order to secure a place in the team as an intern. The 6 ECTS for Lab Rotation 1 are then broken down into the following activities: 1) attending seminars (2 ECTS); 2) preparing a proposal for a small project (2 ECTS); and 3) either start carrying out this project or assisting one or more members of the team with their current research (2 ECTS). While there is a natural progression to these tasks, they are basically carried out simultaneously: seminars and research meetings take place throughout the time period, students may begin straight away with the preparation for their own project, and they function as junior members of the team from the very beginning. Students start their Lab Rotation with an intake conversation with a senior researcher within the group of their choice. The first goal here is to delineate the environment within which the internship takes place. This may be obvious in the case of a well-defined PI group or externally funded large-scale project, but it may also be a collection of related projects that lacks a formal status; in that case the intake process is to define the research context for the duration of the internship. At this point this environment is preferably not defined too narrowly, in order to get the student exposed to a relatively wide range of research cultures. The second goal is to identify the student’s initial goals for the internship, decide on the most optimal supervision structure, and assign the student to the most suitable supervisor(s). In consultation with the supervisor, the student then carries out the three different activities. As familiarization with research culture is one of the goals of this class, students are required to attend a minimum of 10 seminars, workshops or other kinds of research meetings (not necessarily limited to the focal research group). Both activities are summarized in a short written report that lists the seminars that were attended and also includes a short memo or essay that summarizes the ongoing research in the research environment, including, if any, that in related groups at the two universities.
In case the student carries out an individual research project it will be carried out within the context of the larger group, and will often be in close collaboration with one or more senior researchers, Postdocs or graduate students. Often, a student’s project will address a relevant aspect of the overall group’s central topic that is not addressed in great detail by other members of the team. In this case, the student’s Lab Rotation II will continue in the same group. While the student is responsible for his or her own project, every step will be carried out under close supervision from experienced researchers. At the start of this stage (roughly two months after starting the Lab Rotation), there is a planning meeting with minimally the student and the senior supervisor present, and the purpose is twofold: to discuss the planned project in general terms, and to redefine the research environment for it. In most cases, the team the student will be part of for the next stage is smaller and more focused than it was for the first stage. The student then prepares a fairly detailed research proposal; the rest of the time is spent carrying out as much of the project as possible, focusing on data collection and first analyses. If the student chooses to assist one or more members, often a PhD student, in carrying out their research, the exact nature of the tasks assigned to the student will be dependent on the nature of the project and the stage of its progress. At the end of the course, the student puts together a portfolio containing the list of seminars attended, the essay (see above), the research proposal, a description of the work done on the research project so far, and a log of meetings attended and activities carried out. An Appendix may be added containing samples of the work that has been done.
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