Friends, Romans, Countrymen! I passed! Hurray! Thanks to all the well wishers.
I guess I should explain a little more about this prelim business. Basically, most PhD programs in the bioscience require that you undergo an exam sometime between the start of the program and writing your final thesis. This is to test your ability to a) understand scientific papers and data b) formulate your own hypotheses based on that data and c) generate data yourself in a laboratory setting. Yeah, sounds legit, right? Dude, it is HARD. Not that I didn’t know this before embarking on the fun ride that has been my PhD in Biomedical Sciences with a concentration in Cell Biology (good title, no?) but man, talk about life challenges. The prelim process brings with it all the emotions from a list of "how to tell if someone is crazy."
In my particular case what this preliminary exam entails is basically a 25 page research proposal. Now, I’m sure many of you have written 25 page papers. No prob. I can probably churn that out within 24 hours if I procrastinate long enough and the pressure is high enough…but that’s literary exposition. I would guess that then average Joe off the street has never had to endure the pain that is writing science. I have to say that it is completely and utterly different and in fact, the rules are opposite. I would liken it to “legalese.” The "I'm going to say this but I'm not sure it's totally correct so I'm going to leave it ambiguous, but also try to make it sound finite" kind of language. Did I mention that it's single spaced? No joke, people. Ain't nobody laughin'.
Anyway, writing is writing. Tough, but you gotta do it. Now the other part, that's where the shitting your pants comes in. So after you write your blood into it, you have to defend it. You have to stand up to a room with 5 faculty members and answer questions all rapid fire like Alex Trebek on speed. Also, you never know what kind of questions you're going to get so you have to know everything. For example, say you were being tested prelim stylie on your breakfast this morning. Not only might they ask you the ingredients and preparation/method–typical stuff–but they might come out of nowhere and ask, do you think you'd have that for breakfast again tomorrow? Or, what farm exactly is that butter from? What is the species of the corn used to make that flour in your pancakes? And the whole time you're standing up there sweating bullets trying to answer as best you can, but also trying no to throw up, pass out or start crying hysterically because that's pretty much how you feel. The worst part is that at NO TIME during the defense do you have any indication of how you are doing. It's amazing how much it just CONSUMED me. I couldn't think about anything else except myself. Like some kind of sadistic exercise in being self-absorbed.
I passed though! Yay. I have to do a minor rewrite of the written portion but the paperwork is signed and in and I am on the train to PhD-ness. Good thing there is no money in science right now in this country. Wicked! I can't wait to not have a job. Thanks, George!