Today marks the beginning of my qualifying exam for becoming a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. The exam is taken at the end of the first year of graduate school and basically is a check to make sure that you have the basic research knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary to continue onwards as a doctoral student. The exam is broken into two separate parts: a written exam and an oral exam. Both exams are based off a single research paper, selected by the student depending on their research technical area (I fall within Technical Area #1 – Biomedical Imaging and Instrumentation). Later today I will be given the choice of two different papers to choose from. I will then have to answer five questions regarding the content of the paper, which is due in a week. At some point in the next month I will go before a four-person committee made up of faculty members from each of the different research tracks (Two from my track and one from each of the other two tracks) for an oral exam concerning the paper and more importantly my ability to “think on my feet.” If all goes well, then I’ll be continuing on my way towards getting a PhD in biomedical engineering.

However, my only goal for today is to select the paper I’ll be using throughout this entire ordeal. I really hope that there is at least one fascinating paper since that seems to greatly improve my ability to discuss and analyze a research topic.

I’ve decided to use the paper “Simultaneous two-photon calcium imaging at different depths with spatiotemporal multiplexing” for my qualifying exam. The other paper seemed a little to “glossed over” and I felt that would be detrimental to my ability to talk about it in any great detail. Plus this paper involves optics and is pretty cool conceptually (involves splitting a laser beam into four time-delayed and spatially separated beams for imaging).