Oh the qualifying exam. Probably the most feared hurdle of a Ph.D’s career (besides the defense, of course), and the single-most likely cause of such symptoms as acute bladder evacuation, sweaty-forehead induced blindness, and manic dreams that may or may not involve octopus-clown hybrids chasing you.
I just passed mine on May 10. I can’t say that it wasn’t difficult, but I will say that it required marginal alterations to my lifestyle (read as: redefining “food” as “cinnamon toast crunch” or “cheeseburger”, and considering “studying” as “cardio”). This was also the first time that I needed to get up and walk around solely for fear of developing bed sores. The impending exam also allowed me to explore my own fashion trends, which I have dubbed “unshowered bed-head” and “last-week’s laundry surprise”. I also feel I expressed myself artistically through rather symmetrical-looking predator-prey interaction formulas and primate phylogenies that I scrolled on my walls in magic marker. They’re purple. Soap has no effect on them. Don’t tell my roomate.
It also brought about some interesting theoretical questions, such as, “how much tryptophan do I need to inject into these muffins to make all my committee members fall asleep?” and “can you click through a powerpoint slide fast enough to pass subliminal messages?”
So really, despite the hardships that QEs are known to impart on students, I learned far more than just the subject of my thesis. And plus, if you have excellent labmates like I do, you’ll get cake when you’re all finished! I didn’t recognize what my cake was at first, other than that it was neither cinnamon toast crunch nor a cheeseburger, but soon enough, you’ll re-adjust to your happy, pre-QE existance once again.
-Ria Ghai, PhD Candidate