Posted by: hmchang | January 10, 2008

Research: Start Preparing for the Qualify Exam

This morning, Tim came to the office and called me to his office. “For budget reason,” he said, “I would like you to take the qualify exam by the end of this quarter.” This is definitely a milestone during my Ph.D. career, I was arguing with him that I think it is too early for me to take the exam. “There is no reason for me to spend 6000USD dollar more per quarter on you.” “We want to make sure one can get a Ph.D. before sending him to a qualify exam, and I think you can get a Ph.D.”

The University of California System has lower tuition for in-state students. Out-of-state Ph.D. students (like me) would need to pay tuition around 8000USD per quarter. However, after becoming a Ph.D. candidate, i.e., passing the qualify exam in the ECE department, there are three years of tuition reduction. The new tuition will be at the level of in-state students, which is around 2000USD per quarter. Once I pass the qualify exam, my adivsor will pay much less on my quarterly and I will have a slight increase in my salary. Therefore, many professors nowadays push their students to pass the qualify exam as early as possible. Some professor even put them on the same quarter on passing the screening exam!

Another implication of taking the exam is that, the professor anticipate (or hope) that I will be able to graduate in three years, which is Winter2011. My initial plan was to graduate in Spring or Summer2010, which is not to far away from such arrangement. What is meaningful now is that my advisor has enabled this graduation possibility for me by asking me to take the qualify exam this quarter. In a conversation with Mei-Chun this afternoon, she is quite surprised that Tim let us take the qualify exam so early. We are probably the earliest record among all his student – but not necessary the earlies record for graduation 🙂

I personally think that there are two criteria for me to take the qualify exam: one is has a clear direction on where my research is going and the other is familiar with the field. For the first part, I think I have seen some lights during these days, but for the second part, I admit that I am not yet familiar with what’s happening in the field. Moreover, although I have a clear vision on where my research is going, I have not accomplished much yet for the research. I was planning to beef up more on my research before going on for the qualify exam, but it seems now that all the preparation needs to be compressed. I even argued with Tim for almost half an hour about it’s too early to take the exam. Nevertheless. recognizing that he is the boss who is paying your salary, I will need to prepare well as he has requested.

Although every Ph.D. student who takes the qualify exam passes it, it is more important to demonstrate your readiness than just trying to pass the exam. I want to be able to answer most of the questions during the exam and leave good impressions on the committee as well as those who participate in my presentation. I would take this seriously.

Now that Tim has requested, I need to start prepare for this exam and when time takes closer, form a committee. This afternoon I bumped into Li-C and have asked him to serve as my committee member. I was really not expected, although not surprised at all, for him to ask me do the qualify exam this quarter. As he has requested, the only action is “GO!”.

This will again be an interesting and challenging quarter.


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