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Candidacy Exam Passed

On January 23, 2006, I passed my candidacy exam. Also known as the oral exam or preliminary exam, this degree requirement consists of the student proposing a thesis topic to a committee of professors and researchers. As detailed elsewhere (here), my thesis committee consists of four UCLA professors and one researcher. For those of you who are interested in the process of graduate school, here is a brief description of the candidacy exam process.

There is some administrative work in assembling the committee. Neglecting that, let's move on to the day of the exam.

On the day of the exam I go to the room about thirty minutes early and set up my computer to project the presentation. I brought a tray of cookies and some bottles of water. These are not fancy cookies, save that for the final defense (a similar oral exam taken at the end of your graduate studies). The projector is ready and my title slide is displayed when the committee arrives. Once they are all present they ask me to leave the room. I have no idea what they talk about during this time, but when they are done they open the door and ask me to enter and begin the presentation.

I give my presentation and the committee interrupts me to ask questions. I answer the questions to the best of my ability and we occasionally have discussions about various features of the proposed topic. In this case the questions are generally about the topic, though the committee is allowed to ask any questions at all. One or two general plasma questions come up during the exam, but they were derived from the present discussion.

When I finish my presentation there are some more questions. These all concern the proposed topic and whether I will be able to complete it. Once there are no more questions I am asked to leave the room again. The committee engages in another private discussion and calls me back in when they are ready. I find myself pacing back and forth while waiting.

Upon reentering the room I am told that I passed. Each committee member shakes my hand on their way out. There was a faculty meeting in the physics department at the time, so I had to wait until the next day to speak with some of the professors in more detail about my performance.

Now I am an official Ph.D. candidate. The first big change is that UCLA charges me $65 for a candidacy filing fee. This fee is offset by the raise that also accompanies the new status. It is a raise on the graduate student pay scale, however, so I'm not exactly able to buy a new car or other extravagant item. The entire process lasted approximately two hours.

The exam form requires a tentative thesis title:

Plasma Flows and Electron Heat Transport
Driven by Filamentary Pressure Structures

A web version (i.e. pdf) of my exam presentation is available here.

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Initial Posting: Friday, 27 January 2006
Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 December 2007