Research Exam

The research exam is administered during your second fall at JHU, and was first implemented in the fall of 2012 as a replacement of sorts for the POE exam. The exams on the POE page may be helpful in preparing to receive questions from certain professors, but the material is definitely of a qualitatively different flavor. For a more thorough description, please read the description below, given by Rachael Alexandroff (rmalexan@pha). If you have any questions, feel free to talk to Duncan (dwatts@pha) or Rachael.

This exam is designed to be relatively low-stress; you should consider it a chance to demonstrate the progress you have made on a research project during the past several months to a year and a chance to practice giving a talk to a general audience.  In the past, the exam has consisted of a 20-minute talk with time during and after for questions.  The graduate student wine and cheese committee will arrange time before the exam for practice talks from interested students.  Previously, the exam was evaluated by a panel of three professors; one from astrophysics, one from condensed matter and one from particle physics/theory so prepare your talk accordingly!  It is expected that you will demonstrate, during the exam, a clear idea of what role your project fills, both specific to your subfield and broadly within your larger field.  You should expect both specific questions on details of your project as well as as broader questions on related concepts in your field.

The professors simply want to assess the boundaries of your knowledge and are genuinely curious to hear what you’ve been working on!  If all goes well, you will be the person in the room who knows the most about your broader field.  Afterwards, evaluation will most likely be in the form of a discussion with your first/second year advisor on the progress of your research so far in the context of your research exam.  Are there any gaps in your knowledge that need to be filled before your GBO?  Do you need to focus more specifically on one aspect of your work?  Are you ready to publish your first results? These or similar questions represent the flavour of the discussion to be expected.  Take your time to prepare, practice your talk and everything will be a breeze on the day.  Good luck!

-Rachael Alexandroff