for today is the day of pain in the astronomy department at the University of the Frozen Tundra. Today is the one day every year the first and second year (and some third year) graduate students get to run the punishing gauntlet of the written qualifying exam.

When I started at the University of the Frozen Tundra the exam was the weekend after Martin Luther King Jr day. I may have pointed out at some point that if they moved it forward a week and kept with the standard week long grading scheme then people could sign up for thesis credits in the spring if the paperwork saying they passed the written exam was submitted by the Monday after MLK day. So somewhere in our department I expect there are some grad students cursing my name because they wanted an extra week to study.

In the end though I don’t think it matters. I was one of those third years taking the exam since I have huge test anxiety issues. And I have to say that year 3 went by much better on the exam, that time they actually bothered to proof read the questions before slapping them together on the exam so I didn’t find myself sitting there going What the hell are you asking like I did in year 2.

But even if students pass the exam they have to also worry about their “second year project” and their oral exam. I actually passed my oral before the written (in violation of uni regs, but whatever) and was happy I wasn’t like so many other grad students in our dept that got a pass with reservations (where reservations always seemed to involve a punishment of at least 25 page papers on the background of their topic of study). I think we’ve actually had one oral failure since I was a student and they’ve been allowed to redo their oral and are still in the program.

I’m glad to be done with all of that. Instead I’m thinking about my defense in April and how to squash what potentially may be 5 journal articles worth of material into an hour long talk with in depth background to convince astronomers that we really care about solar system studies. I may have just made a really awesome plot yesterday too for journal article #4 that made me giddy and may have caused a little squeeing. I’m not sure if that’s a sign I’m ready to finish or not, so many people seem burnt out and pissed towards the end. I’m just turning even bossier than normal with my advisor and squeeful.

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