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Santa Cruz, CA

Vikram Baliga, PhD Candidate at UC Santa Cruz, member of the Mehta Lab. Areas of study: ecology, ontogeny, morphometrics, and comparative methods.


Another Year, Another Milestone: The Qualifying Exam

Vikram Baliga

What a great end to the Fall quarter! I'm happy to report that last week, I passed my Qualifying Exam (QE) to advance to PhD candidacy. I am not truly a "PhD Candidate" just yet though -- the last remaining hurdle is for me to give a seminar to the EEB Department, which I will do in the upcoming Winter quarter.

My QE Committee was composed of Dr. Bruce Lyon (chair), Dr. Pete Raimondi, Dr. Peter Wainwright (UC Davis), and, of course, my major advisor, Dr. Rita Mehta. I feel pretty lucky to have had such an amazing array of biologists devoted to helping me create the best dissertation possible. As part of the QE, I composed a research proposal which outlined the complete content of all of my dissertation work and sent it to my committee a few weeks in advance of the QE. This was not a simple task, but I managed to keep everything within a concise 9 pages of text (not including figures or citations) to limit any burden I might place on my committee (they're busy people!).

The exam itself was a great experience. I gave a presentation to my committee to again outline my proposed dissertation work. I was pretty nervous for the first few minutes, but that feeling completely vanished once my committee started asking questions during my presentation. The whole experience morphed into more of a discussion than a strict presentation, and I was quite pleased with the back-and-forth dynamic I had with my committee. This "conversation" lasted almost 3 hours, and I received strong positive comments on my ideas and work. The committee seemed impressed with the work I've done for my first chapter, and helped me brainstorm and further solidify my ideas for my other two chapters. All in all, this exam was not nearly as nerve-wracking as I thought it would be, and was quite honestly fun!