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predicting success

cboake at utk.edu cboake at utk.edu
Mon Sep 9 16:20:22 EST 1996

In article <1996Sep7.132948.20379 at alw.nih.gov>, bjag at cog.nimh.nih.gov
(Bharathi Jagadeesh) wrote:

> How do we judge the sometimes naive youngsters contemplating
> entering science? There was a letter to the editor in the 8-30-96
> issue of Science arguing that undergraduate grades did not
> reflect "career success in science", nor did success at winning
> Canadian graduate fellowships. That lead the researchers to
> speculate on what factors may predict career success, including
> abstract qualities like curiosity, drive, organization skills, etc.

  My personal experience is that undergraduates with high GPA's received
them by playing it safe and always following the rules.  They can have
great difficulty in graduate school, where creativity and novel approaches
ar necessary for success in research.  These days, I look for drive and
motivation, which can't necessarily be assessed through a standard
application form. I also look for undergraduate research experience, which
shows drive in that the student had to seek out the experience, and which
shows that they know a bit about what they are getting into. 
  The MS degree can be very useful for helping students to decide whether
a scientific career is appropriate.  During the 2-3 years of MS training,
I can learn whether a student has the talent, the temperament, and the
motivation to get a PhD.  Something else I like about the MS is that it
gives students an out -- if they want to change schools, fields or
advisors, or if they decide that science is not for them, they can leave
gracefully and without their egos being pummelled.

Chris Boake
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Univ. of Tennessee

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