The visit from the second prospective PhD student was in some ways far more successful than that of the first one, though the end result was about the same. This student actually survived two full weeks of working with me, and we did some fairly tedious, boring work (depending on your prospective), stuff that will, apparently, drive many people to flee. He could handle our tiny animals, which was a necessary skill to demonstrate. Such skills, however, are only part of a PhD; there is an academic component as well. Unfortunately, he did not convincingly demonstrate his abilities in this regard. From the outset, it was clear that he was a really shy guy. Though this is not necessarily a bad thing (lots of intelligent people are withdrawn), it made it difficult to evaluate whether he understood what I was telling him. After spending a lot of time giving monologues, I began asking questions, perhaps excessively, so as to get him to open up, share ideas, and demonstrate understanding. On his last day in Plön, I even had a colleague help me in this task of pestering him with questions. All for not. His responses remained limited to things like 'interesting', 'yes', 'maybe', etc. We were really left with a difficult decision; he could manage with the system, but would he be able to develop his own ideas and pursue them semi-independently? Well, luckily, in the end we didn't have to make this decision. He emailed us and said that he had decided against doing his PhD in Plön. So, happily, we avoided a tough decision, but, unfortunately, after taking about a month of time to deal with unsuccessful prospective PhDs, I am back where I began. Oh well. Perhaps Frosty is right (see comments on previous post), I may be a tapeworm nazi that no one can bear working with. Strangely enough, just last week, we received another unsolicited application of a prospective PhD student keen to work with Schistocephalus. He'll visit next week. Hopefully, I won't collect my third strike.
In other news, for those that are not already aware, next week I'm flying to Nebraska to visit my folks. It has been over 2 years since I was there, so I am pretty excited about it. This trip was quickly put together; I just bought the ticket about two weeks ago. A few of my experiments did not work, so instead of trying to start new ones, I simply decided to take two weeks and fly to Omaha. It is a bit strange actually. Instead of taking a vacation because I had planned to or because I felt as though it was earned, I am taking a vacation because it is convenient…there is time to get away, so I'll take advantage of it. A bit weird, and I actually feel somewhat guilty about it, which is probably not healthy. On the other hand, my timing is pretty good. For the first time in two decades, Omaha is playing host to some opening round games of the NCAA basketball tournament. My Dad, being the high roller that he is (sarcasism intended), managed to score some tickets for me. So, instead of watching the games via a low quality stream over the internet, I will be there in person! Very cool. This won't, however, help me fill out the my brackets for the family pool, which Ines will probably win again this year.