Kerry's Korner


got my miracle…
June 9, 2007, 11:30 AM
Filed under: family, grad school

So, I wrote previously that getting enough points to pass would be a miracle – guess I got it. I truly did not expect to get that many points out of it. So, my aunt emailed me and asked me to explain the set up of this exam system… it occurs to me that there may be more than her that don’t know what is going on, so I’m going to paste the email I sent to her below – here is the explanation….

First year involves 4 big courses (Biochemistry, Molecular Cell Biology, Immunology and Microbial Disease) along with 3 lab rotations (10-12 weeks working in a given lab) and assorted other things. The classes have to be completed with nothing lower than a B- to stay in the program. Each rotation requires a written report – 5-10 page paper – on something done during the course of the rotation.

At the end of the first year are the CPE – comprehensive preliminary exams – or what is referred to as qualifiers. This is broken up into 2 parts. The first is an all day written exam covering all of the course material in first year. To pass this part there are 25 available points from 2 questions in each subject. There has to be a minimum of 17.5 points per section with no single question lower than 5 points. The morning section was biochem and molecular cell and then in the afternoon we took Immuno and Microbial. We had 3 hours for each half. That was last Monday – June 4.

I was so afraid I had not gotten enough points to pass a couple of the sections. Sections not making the minimum points can be retaken once, but it has to be passed. Not passing it gets you kicked out of the program.

Part II is writing a research proposal on a question posed by faculty. We had 8 to choose from and I picked my mentors. We have to research the topic out, propose a hypothesis and specific aim as to how we will prove the hypothesis and design a set of experiments to carry that out. It is to be 7 pages and is due on Friday, June 15. The next week we have to do an oral presentation and defense of our proposal.

Now, what I didn’t say in the email to my aunt is the following…

The exam director will form a committee to grade the papers and do the oral defense. Generally the faculty member posing the question will be chair of that committee. However, if we (as I did) choose to answer our mentor’s question the mentor cannot be chair of the committee for his/her own student. So, my mentor will be on my committee, but someone else will chair the committee.

I must say, my mentor has been really helpful with all of this. More and more I see the decision I made for the lab I wanted to stay in was/is the right one.

I need to go and get reading… I have a lot of papers to go through and more to find 🙂

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