Philosophy and Expectations
Date: 7/28/2009 10:11 am
Graduate education is based on one of the oldest models of learning known the apprenticeship. This method of instruction predates the medieval period during which it reached its peak both in terms of formality and the ubiquity with which it was used by craft guilds. The model is simple but effective. By working with a 'master craftsman' (in this case a senior scientist), a young apprentice (in this case a graduate student) can learn by example and by trial and error, while being corrected and educated by the mentor. Through a close association, the student learns both the skills required to perform science and also the strategies, philosophy, and ethics of science. All science is performed by applying the scientific method. It will be your task to apply this method in the formulation of hypotheses and the design of strategies to test them under the supervision of your major professor.
What makes graduate education different from a craft or trade is scholarship. Only the intellectual effort to push back the frontiers of knowledge in their discipline discriminates a scholar from these other pursuits. Scholars love knowledge and the acquisition of new knowledge.
The department and the faculty expect students to enter into this apprenticeship with the understanding that the responsibility for learning is theirs. While faculty are obligated to provide instruction and facilities, the actual work must be the student's. This experience will in all cases require extraordinary effort, both alone and cooperative, on the part of the student. Late nights and weekends are a normal part of the work week of a young scholar. The expectation of all students is to perform at the peak of their ability. The goals are lofty and the experience rewarding. Those with the greatest accomplishments will win the greatest rewards in future positions and opportunities.