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I was just chatting with a just-starting-out student in my lab today, who’s doing research follow-up on some work I did. Her supervisor (let’s call him Bob), who is also on my committee, is slowly driving us both nuts by asking incisive, yet completely irrelevant, questions about this work. We wound up talking about this being a common tactic in academic seminars - take the guy at Oxford who, no matter what the topic, would ask, “Have you considered the effects of parasites in your system?” Like, no, bro, we’re talking about coral reef phylogeography and gamete vs larval dispersal. We are about 100 papers away from being able to consider parasites.

Bob’s questions are similar. Kind of smart-sounding, but outside the scope of the methods or goals of the investigation. And yet every single one of them sends us chasing our tails to find yet another irrelevant and time-consuming answer. I’m so delighted that this guy is going to be marking my PhD, you guys.

Anyone have fun facepalm smartypants questions from seminars or similar?

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