More on the Ph.D.
The Ph.D. entails a number of “rights of passage.” Most programs have a formidable, intimidating qualifier examination. This is a gatekeeper requirement. It’s often used to test one’s dedication to the program, as opposed to one’s grasp of domain knowledge. I’ve used this picture before and I’ll use it again. Woof woof!
Don’t worry, this doggy has already jumped through that hoop.
The newest kid on my Ph.D. block is the “Research Advisory Board Meeting.” Our administration would like each student to meet yearly (just like our PPD tests!) with a committee of faculty/industry members to discuss our progress. A great idea, right?
The problem is that academia/industry has picked up its pace in this, this age of the internet. There are too many emails for too many meetings from too many parties. It’s tough to even get a response from a professor, much less herd a group of them into a common room to talk about yourself. Two of my committee members are professors in the ECE department, one is a practicing pathologist, one is my advisor, and one is in the Management Science department at a different campus. All I have to do (each year) is find the intersection of these (very busy) people’s (variable) schedules, and convince them to travel, convene, and discuss my thesis. Donuts? Coffee? Anyone? Nobody wants to see my PowerPoint slides?
It’s a harrowing task to have these meetings. In the “real world”, where people have jobs and titles and clear power hierarchies, it’s more straightforward to summon coworkers for a meeting. In academia, the rolls are less clear and the time more closely guarded. There will be no discipline, no pay cuts, no firings if these people decide they aren’t interested in my research. I am beholden to the kindness of strangers for this thing to work. Even though it shouldn’t, it has a way of making the poor grad student feel unimportant.
(This is the part where I put a PayPal link and summon small donations for those who pity me.)
Seriously though, pity me. These email thingies don’t work at all.