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Improper interview Q?

SLF notmyaddress at hotmail.com
Mon Jan 28 04:52:32 EST 2002

Edie writes:

> Hello everybody! I'd appreciate some perspectives on something that
> just happened.
> My partner just returned from an interview for graduate school (a
> Ph.D. program in biochemistry). During the interview, one of the
> interviewers said "You're going to be 42 when you graduate... what
> will you do with a Ph.D. at that age?" She graciously replied that
> since she was going to be 42 anyway, she might as well be doing work
> that she loved.
> She doesn't think it's a big deal, but I'm sort of upset. Is it
> okay/customary for a grad school interviewer to ask a question like
> that?

*I*  wouldn't have asked it. In my opinion,  it was out of line, but
perhaps not as far as you think.

To be fair, perhaps the interviewer
wanted to be sure that she was aware of the time commitment of
graduate work--that it's a long hard haul.    You'd think most students
would know that, but once I had a student
ask me in a grad school interview if she would be getting summers
off.  In this case, it should have been phrased better to get at the

It's also possible that the interviewer has a problem.   Some faculty
just can't visualize non-traditional students. Fortunately, it's very difficult
for one dinosaur to keep qualified students out of a graduate program.
Generally the dino's colleagues know its tendencies and neutralize them.

 Unfortunately, there will be many other graceless
and inappropriate questions from clueless people that your partner
will face in academe and in science (where dinosaurs still roam).
Sounds like she handled this one just right.  I'd let it
go and move on.


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S L Forsburg, PhD  Associate Professor
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA
"These are my opinions.  I don't have
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