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Author Topic: Help me interpret this email.  (Read 9147 times)
pseudotyped_forumite
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« on: May 08, 2012, 3:46:04 PM »

This is a sock. I just don't want this question associated with my regular moniker in case it outs me.

I am a STEM grad student. Last week I took a final exam, and one of the questions asked us to think of a disease/problem that could be addressed through therapy using a cell type we discussed in class, and to suggest an experimental process that could be used to test the therapy. My answer was based on something which I had read in a random article which used a different type of therapy to address the problem -- I wrote about it because the question suggested that the professor wanted us to think of a disease that had not been discussed in class and design an experiment for that as opposed to writing about the ones we discussed in class, and this was the only thing I could think of at the time. I basically pulled it out of my ass and bulls***ted my way through the answer. The original paper targeted something which would prevent a certain cell type from being degraded, and my design for the exam involved replacing the cells that are degraded in the disease.

Anyway, the professor who set that question sent me an email asking for my phone number because he wants to call me to discuss what I wrote for that answer. He said it was 'very interesting'. I have never had anyone do this before, and I am not sure how to interpret it. I'm not sure if he just wants to talk about it because he found it interesting (in which case I'm not sure what to say besides what I already wrote in the exam), or if he thinks I cheated/can tell I just made it all up on the spot (which I pretty much did) and wants to see if I can explain it and properly justify it. Or something else. Basically, I am not sure if this is something I should be worried about or if it's likely to be nothing.

What do you think?
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scampster
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« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2012, 3:58:23 PM »

Well, you didn't cheat, so I don't know that you have anything to be worried about. My guess (which you should take with a grain of salt since I have only taught one class) is that he had a specific answer in mind and you were so completely out of the box that he doesn't know how to grade it, so he wants to talk with you further about it
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tinyzombie
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« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2012, 4:02:51 PM »

Well, you didn't cheat, so I don't know that you have anything to be worried about. My guess (which you should take with a grain of salt since I have only taught one class) is that he had a specific answer in mind and you were so completely out of the box that he doesn't know how to grade it, so he wants to talk with you further about it

An alternative explanation is that you wrote something accidentally genius.

Either way, I don't think you're in trouble.
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scampster
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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2012, 4:05:01 PM »

Well, you didn't cheat, so I don't know that you have anything to be worried about. My guess (which you should take with a grain of salt since I have only taught one class) is that he had a specific answer in mind and you were so completely out of the box that he doesn't know how to grade it, so he wants to talk with you further about it.

An alternative explanation is that you wrote something accidentally genius.

Either way, I don't think you're in trouble.

"Completely out of the box" and "accidentally genius" aren't mutually exclusive!
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pseudotyped_forumite
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« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2012, 4:06:07 PM »

Well, you didn't cheat, so I don't know that you have anything to be worried about. My guess (which you should take with a grain of salt since I have only taught one class) is that he had a specific answer in mind and you were so completely out of the box that he doesn't know how to grade it, so he wants to talk with you further about it

That could be it. I hope he doesn't ask me any questions I can't answer... Actually, now that I think about it, it can't be anything too bad because he will have had to go through the course co-ordinator to find out whose answer that one was as all that was on the paper itself was a 4 digit number which is used by the couse co-ordinator to identify people when they get all the pages back. The exams are (supposed to be) graded completely anonymously. I think the course co-ordinator would have contacted me if there was a serious problem with my exam.

On preview: Heh. I doubt it, TZ, but you never know! Maybe it actually would work.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2012, 4:06:36 PM by pseudotyped_forumite » Logged
marigolds
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« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2012, 4:08:41 PM »

I'm going with "accidentally genius.

But FYI, I think you asked a similar question under your regular moniker, so regular forumites might see that connection (though I'm sure folks who don't read here that much wouldn't.)
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pseudotyped_forumite
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« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2012, 4:23:32 PM »

I'm going with "accidentally genius.

But FYI, I think you asked a similar question under your regular moniker, so regular forumites might see that connection (though I'm sure folks who don't read here that much wouldn't.)

Did I? I don't remember doing that.

I'm not using a sock to hide from regular forumites anyway -- I don't care if they know who I am -- I'm just using it to hide from any lurkers who may be able to immediately recognize me from this information. Not that I'm particularly anonymous anyway -- if someone was determined enough to read enough of my posts, they'd identify me quite easily.
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marigolds
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« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2012, 4:26:42 PM »

I'm going with "accidentally genius.

But FYI, I think you asked a similar question under your regular moniker, so regular forumites might see that connection (though I'm sure folks who don't read here that much wouldn't.)

Did I? I don't remember doing that.

I'm not using a sock to hide from regular forumites anyway -- I don't care if they know who I am -- I'm just using it to hide from any lurkers who may be able to immediately recognize me from this information. Not that I'm particularly anonymous anyway -- if someone was determined enough to read enough of my posts, they'd identify me quite easily.

Maybe it was on FB? Doesn't matter anyway, as you said--I didn't know if you were worried about it, but if you're not it totes doesn't matter.
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pseudotyped_forumite
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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2012, 4:29:08 PM »

Oh, that. Yes. That was actually a different class.
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frogfactory
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« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2012, 5:25:27 PM »

If you were quiet in class and came up with something accidentally genius, it's possible he's concerned you cheated or got someone else to answer your exam.  But you didn't, so it'll be fine.

That or your answer was so awesome, he wants to call to invite you for coffee.  In which case I think you have an excellent excuse to say no.
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slinger
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« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2012, 5:29:25 PM »

I typed (and erased) a reply earlier, somewhat confident I knew who you were. Now that I'm even more sure that I do, I, too, don't think you have anything to worry about.

At the same time, it's nearly impossible to guess at somebody's motivation. Is this guy the type to call out BS or just grade it as BS? Is he the type to call students on the phone, or request meetings, or email in instances of suspicion? Besides, based on what you've said, it doesn't sound like you BS'ed at all. You used information from an outside reading to solve the proposed problem in a novel way.

To me, that's not BS, that's application that would earn an A+.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2012, 6:08:50 PM »

If what you told is us all true (and I have zero reason to believe it's not), then the probability is high that the professor just wants to investigate an unusual answer.

I know I've checked on students who went far outside the box just to get a handle on an unexpected datum.

After even just a couple terms of assigning similar material, an unexpected answer that is on mark is unusual.  A good scientist is going to check that out just from curiosity.
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crowie
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« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2012, 6:42:53 PM »

I have to say, whether the professor's intention is to "catch" you or to congratulate you and to continue the discussion, I do not think it was wise of him to have asked for your phone number.  He should have emailed you to set up an appointment in his office.  I think you will be fine--do tell us what happens!     
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pseudotyped_forumite
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« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2012, 7:37:32 PM »

Thanks, everyone. He's going to call me tomorrow afternoon, so I'll let you know what happens!

Slinger: I don't actually know much about him as he only taught one class out of 10, so I don't know if this is the sort of thing he just does or not. He's the director of a department which works on the subject area his class was about; that's really all I know.

I also wish he would have set up an appointment by email, because I really, really hate talking on the phone.

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mythbuster
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« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2012, 7:52:34 PM »

My guess is that you gave a new and different answer to this question and he wants to ask you about that paper you based it on. I had at least one prof in grad school who would ask these types of questions on exams. These were questions without strictly correct answers and sometimes had no known answers at all. They just wanted you to think creatively and see what you came up with.
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