This past Tuesday I passed my comprehensive exam! It was a huge relief! Also, this is why I haven’t been blogging as frequently lately.
To explain: at ASU for my Ph.D. program, we have to take a roughly three hour oral exam given by our dissertation committee. This exam not only tests our knowledge in our fields of study, but also is when we defend our dissertation proposal (all of our ideas/hypotheses/methods/data to date). My committee is comprised of my advisor and 4 other faculty, who are experts at various topics covered in my dissertation. For instance, I have an expert on phylogenetics, an expert on hummingbirds, an expert on iridescent coloration, and an expert on statistics. During this exam, they can ask me questions on anything related to my proposed dissertation, even if I’m not directly studying that topic. For example, I was asked questions ranging from how to build a phylogeny to the genetics of behavior.
To prepare for this exam, I have spent the past month doing nothing but studying, everyday, all-day. And before that I spent most of my free time during field work writing/editing my proposal. This is definitely one of those exams that you have to study more than just a few days before! Above is a picture of some of the material I read; I have a library of papers on my computer which I also went through.
While the entire process was fairly miserable, I did learn a ton. Not everything I read came up during my exam, but I am ok with that because that knowledge will still serve me through the rest of my academic career. This also seems to be part of the point of this exam. It forces you to study and learn a bunch of material, that will ultimately make you a better scientist.
Now that this exam is over, I can breathe free again and relax! I will post the final updates on the documentary filming in a few days, and then I will probably post my tips and advice on studying for this type of exam to hopefully help those who will take it in the future.
Thank you so much to everyone who supported me throughout this entire processes!