Monday, May 4, 2015

Judge? I am not even an Attorney!

One of my friends recently asked me to judge at the 14th Annual University of Alabama System Honors Research Conference on Saturday, April 11th.  UA Birmingham, UA Huntsville, and UA apparently unite every spring to create this event, with the site rotating among the schools.

I judged the "Biomedical & Health-Related" category.  I had no idea what to expect.  Another judge, from UAB, and I were given score sheets for 6 different research posters in room 226.  I hurried to the room.

There I found the other judge working his way down the line of posters.  The guy at poster #1 was still setting up his poster, so I found a young lady standing alone in front of her presentation and began asking her about her research.  I was impressed with her confidence and poise.  As I questioned her, it became apparent that she had “bought the party line” and was merrily going along with what she had been told by a Ph.D.  I asked her some very hard questions, after all she said she was a future physician, and her research involved improving preventive health.  She handled the tough questions without losing her poise, but I am not sure she ever realized the circularity of her health model.  But despite this, I was very impressed with her manner and confidence.

As I went down the line of posters, the most impressive thing was not the sometimes complex research lines, but rather the intelligence and confidence of these young students, all of whom were in their school’s “Honors” programs.

As a judge, I had to try to quantify and differentiate between some very good work, and some pretty good work.  In the end, on a 25-point scale, the lowest was a 15, and the highest was a 20, with two 19’s and a couple of 18’s.  Amazing and impressive to this highly critical judge.

Conducting and presenting research is a complex skill.  That these young students knew what they knew and could present themselves so well, says something good about these Honors students, though perhaps not so much about other groups.

I came away from this experience encouraged by the quality of students with whom I had talked.   They were very bright.

We value intelligence.  We value industry.  We value quality.  All of these were present in the Conference.  But a more important question remains.

What does G^d value?  After all, He is the Judge who matters.

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