News is trickling out about the Aurora murderer. The first wave of misinformation was gosh-wow gullible stuff in which reporters were gushing over how he was some super-genius in a top-flight neuroscience program. I have to disillusion everyone right there: getting into graduate school is a minor accomplishment, sure, but it’s not the major mark of distinction they think it is. By all accounts so far, he was an average student early in his academic career. Most revealing is the suggestion that he was also washing out of that career.
Holmes had difficulty with a June 7 preliminary exam, given orally by three university faculty members. It is designed to evaluate students’ knowledge at the end of the first year. Three days later, Holmes dropped out.
Basic fact about grad school, at least in the sciences: you are admitted provisionally. You’re essentially given research tasks at first to test your ability, and then the big event is your preliminary exam. It is extremely stressful, just ask Jen. If you pass it, you advance to candidacy for a Ph.D. and are expected to buckle down and get to work. If you fail it…you’re done. Pack your bags, go home. You probably aren’t going to get accepted into any other grad program, either.
At every school I’ve been at, most students pass their prelims — their importance is highly emphasized, and everyone knows to work their asses off. But there are always some who don’t make the cut. And that sounds like Holmes’ case. I kind of suspected, from the timing, that he was a grad student who’d just failed his prelims.
You can’t blame his shooting rampage on that, though. I suspect that one reason he failed is that he spent the last several months, when he should have been frantically studying, stockpiling Batman paraphernalia in his apartment, instead. He was on a trajectory towards failure long before he stepped into that last examining room.
via Neuroscientists debunk idea Colorado suspect was supersmart – USATODAY.com.