December 1, 2010
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Now that my seminar is out of the way (and I soundly kicked its butt, thankyouverymuch *bow*), a much, MUCH larger challenge is looming in the not-so-distant horizon:
The Comprehensive Exam.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, picture your favourite episode of Law and Order or Criminal Intent or any other such cop-type-program. You know the scene where the bad guy is hunched and small and miserable-looking as he sits on an uncomfortable chair in a cramped, dark, concrete room that he’d clearly prefer not to be in at that moment, and there’s a couple of cops grilling him with a steady stream of increasingly agitating questions until the bad guy finally breaks down, either with a display of tears or confessions or gibberish or outright lunacy?
Yeah, it’s like that. Only replace “bad guy” with “PhD student” and “cops” with “Too-Smart-Professors”. Everything else is pretty much bang-on, only there is not likely to be a “good cop”. This anxiety-inducing exercise is a requirement for most of us PhD wannabes. It is not something we look forward to. The thought of “Comps” makes us want to throw up a little.
So I have been busy thinking about my Comps *barf* and about the things TSPs may ask. I’ve been chewing on questions like, “what is my own work really about, and where does it fit in the greater scheme of science?” Which has led me to further ponder: “what IS the greater scheme of science, and ecology in particular? How did the field of ecology come to be, and how has it evolved over time, and why?” I know that there have been a number of very influential thinkers who have produced very influential ideas and publications. I have a shortlist of people who I believe to be particularly important, but I’m curious to hear what others think (and to see how their own areas of expertise affect their choices).
I’m throwing these two questions at you, dear readers:
Who do YOU think were (or are) the most influential figures in ecology?
What papers do YOU think have most strongly affected the development and evolution of the field?