Designing the Future

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Advancing my future

In my department, before you can start your Ph.D. work, you have to pass an oral exam of sorts - an Advancement Exam. This consists of a 45 minute talk given by the student to the public and a panel of four professors or external researchers in the field with Ph.D.s. After the talk, anyone present can ask questions, but after a few minutes, the public is asked to leave so the panel of professors can ask the tough questions. When they finish, they ask the student to leave so they can talk about the project. After some time, the student's advisor finds them and either brings them back to the panel to explain why they haven't passed, or the conditions upon which they will be allowed to pass (usually a small paper with more details about some aspect of their project); or the advisor simply tells the student that they've passed. In my case, I simply passed. This was a big deal for me, as I've been working on the proposal for the past few months, and got to my own exam almost an hour late because of road construction and an accident on Highway CA-17 (two lane, through the Santa Cruz Mountains... notorious for delays from accidents).

So the end result is that a panel of professors and an external researcher (who essentially invented the field my project is in) all agree that I'm ready to begin work. The next thing I have to do is the hard part (the actual project). Then, in two years or so, I'll write up my results and defend my work at a similar event, the Thesis Defense. If I pass that, I get a Ph.D. If not, I either get to do more work, try again, or find a different career path. But hey, no pressure.