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A question for Graduate students and higher

  1. Oct 15, 2004 #1

    chem_tr

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    Hello. I've enrolled Chemistry Graduation program last year, and I will finish my courses, ready to be "challenged" by PhD proficiency examination. In our country, some instutitions like mine prefer to do this examination by asking EVERY branch, regardless of what subject (or main branch) I'm working on. This style has been adapted for a year, before that time only the branch of graduate study was the object of the examination. For example, I am a student of Inorganic Chemistry (rather regarded as Metal-Organic Chemistry in our working style), but we will be asked Physical Chemistry, Organic Chemistry (this is OK, but still a different branch), and Analytical Chemistry as well as Inorganic Chemistry. The examination scheme is like this, you'll be given eight hours for sixteen questions (four questions for each branch) to solve them, and the next day you are required to pass an oral examination.

    I don't like this type of examination; in my opinion this type of treatment would be better instead: A student chooses TWO branches of chemistry, say, Inorganic and Organic Chemistry as I would do without thinking, and is asked 16 questions, 8 each, with more detail. I hate to memorize formulae which I will forget several minutes later the examination, this would only test my memorizing ability, not interpretation of and solving the problems.

    I am deeply in the need of knowing your ideas, and especially what you are doing in your country. I hope something changes, since I believe that this is a pretty silly way to measure one graduate student's knowledge potential.
     
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  3. Oct 15, 2004 #2

    Bystander

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    Are you interested in a doctoral program, or would you rather be a super-technician? What you've described is pretty much the first hurdle/hoop to jump through in any program --- you will demonstrate proficiency and/or familiarity with these fields before moving on. In this case, inorganic, organic, analytical, and physical chemistries --- you can be stabbed additionally with biochem in some schools; other schools want 4 of the 5 fields covered in examinations. No one's expecting you to do original work in QM or thermo to pass such exams --- they are expecting you to be familiar with principles and methods of analytical and physical chemistry as well as those of your announced interests. Think about it --- saves you re-inventing wheels later in your career.
     
  4. Oct 16, 2004 #3

    chem_tr

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    Hello,

    I am a PhD student right now, but my university requires that I apply for this kind of examination in order to be eligible for studying my PhD thesis. There is an additional proficiency, foreign language, but I've passed it some other time, so this is not important for me.

    So you agree with me about the level of the examination; if I submit at the beginning that I want to be an Inorganic Chemist PhD, they should not persuade me to study such deep concepts of the other lectures, the ones I remember from undergraduate should be enough. Do you agree with these statements?
     
  5. Oct 16, 2004 #4

    Bystander

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    No, I agree with the school requiring that you demonstrate some level of proficiency in the other fields. There is no such thing as a doctorate in chemistry without some knowledge of what's happening in fields other than that which the candidate elects as a specialty.
     
  6. Oct 16, 2004 #5

    movies

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    I have to agree with Bystander on this one. I think that virtually all graduate schools have some requirement beyond your primary field of study. The idea, as I understand it, is that you should be able to teach an intro level course in any field of chemistry.
     
  7. Oct 16, 2004 #6

    chem_tr

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    Thank you both, I'll try to do the best for the proficiency exam. As an introductory level, you are right Movies, that I should know all the branches of chemistry enough to teach something to an undergraduate. However, I fear from teachers asking their branches more than enough, as if I must know them. You are totally right though, about the level that I have to provide.
     
  8. Oct 17, 2004 #7

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    Intradepartmental politics are usually limited by fear of reprisal --- the p-chem faculty decide to flunk out all the organikers' grad students, and they can expect to lose their own students to the organikers. If there's a departmental power struggle (say an open chairmanship), things can get nasty, and grad students have had careers wrecked, but things usually proceed in civilized fashion ---"That's a ridiculous question to ask on these exams. Half the faculty couldn't answer it, so we'll throw it out/grade it on the basis of what the non-blankers on the staff think." You get along with the faculty, and they think you belong in the program --- you're okay.
     
  9. Oct 21, 2004 #8
    In our PhD program, we have to pass exams on four divisions of chemistry in the first year (inorganic, organic, analytical, physical; there's no biochem exam). I'm at Wisconsin right now, and looking at the comments above it seems like those exams are par for the course.

    Your idea is fulfilled, I think, by the completion of the minor requirement... Maybe you don't have one... Here we have to complete a battery of courses, exams, projects, and a presentation in the major division. But you also have to complete the sequence of courses in a division outside of your major one.
     
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