Sunday, July 26, 2009

Next Step: Prelim, but first a week off

So I just finished my master's degree--deposited the thesis on Friday. I'm taking a week off from work as part of my reward/celebration. Despite this break from actual work, some part of the back of my mind is working on the next step.

Since I've already passed the qualifying exam, my next big hurdle is the preliminary exam. The qualifying exam was a written test that took ten hours over a day and a half. It tested me on everything I've ever learned in atmospheric sciences. For the preliminary exam, I'll have to write and defend a proposal of my planned PhD research (and I have to choose a PhD committee). After that, I research, write my dissertation, and defend the dissertation.

Looking at the next step, I am a bit intimidated. According to the online description of the prelim, I need to write the proposal and prepare the defense without help from anyone. I've never done this before. I have a few versions of a fellowship proposal that won me three years of funding from which to start, but this proposal needs to be much more detailed and longer than the ones for fellowships.

I think seeing an example or two will help. If I can't get advice specifically about my proposal, I can at least use other people's proposals and presentations as examples so I know the structure and quality it needs.

In any case, I may not be starting on that right away in a hugely meaningful way. I still need to polish the research and writing from my thesis to make a paper or two. I also need to introduce myself to some tools I'll be using in my PhD research. I hope to wrap this up well before the end of the fall semester and get a good start on my prelim proposal before the end of the year so I can present it by the end of next summer.

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