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009: Research and Prelims and Quals, Oh My!

It’s year two, and you’re just hitting your stride in the lab.  You’ve finally got classes behind you, so now it’s time to drop the books and make some magic at the bench, right!  Nope, now it’s time for prelims!

Will Work for Fish

dolphin by Niklas Morberg
It’s a metaphor, people. Dolphins rarely earn PhDs in captivity.

That perennial favorite of graduate training rears its ugly head in this week’s show.  Whether your department calls them prelims, quals, or something else, you know it as the dreaded “test” between you and your PhD candidacy.  Our question came from Katiria, who wrote:

Hello Joshua and Daniel,

Great Podcast! It is really fun to listen to it during the tedious bench work.  

I will be taking my prelim at some point this semester, and I was wondering how can I increase productivity. I want to have data, but I need to read a lot. At the same time, I need to focus in the parts of the projects that are producing. It seems overwhelming at times. How did you do it?

Katiria

We take a few minutes to consider the somewhat dubious value of the modern preliminary exam, and think about some better options for testing a student’s readiness.  But in the end, we give Katiria the advice she probably didn’t expect but definitely needs.

Tell us about your prelims!  Are they designed to “weed out” students, or is it a garden party?  Do you write a grant on your own project, or simply fill out a multiple choice questionnaire covering the first two years of classes?  We love a good horror story, so pass those along, too!

Galileo Finger-o (Magnifico-o-o-o-o)

Also this week, Josh finds deep scientific meaning in Galileo’s time under house arrest, and uncovers the final resting place of a couple of his fingers and teeth.  It’s that kind of hard-hitting scientific journalism you can only get from Hello PhD and/or Wikipedia (which is where we got it.)

galileo's final salute
This really redefines the phrase “Give ’em the finger!”

On the ethanol front, we sample Wetherburn’s Tavern Bristol Ale from Williamsburg, VA.  It’s a malty, hoppy voyage through history and back, with very little sense of direction.  

 

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