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James Holmes dropped out of one of the nation’s most prestigious neuroscience PhD programs just weeks before his alleged shooting rampage in an Aurora, Colo.That program, at the University of Colorado – Denver, is so high-pressured that some PhD students drag cots into the lab so they can check data throughout the night, according to a Friday article in the LA Times.
While officials at the University of Colorado – Denver declined to discuss Holmes specifically, they gave the LA Times new details on the environment he worked in until just a few weeks before the “Dark Knight Rises” tragedy.
The work of a PhD neuroscience student can be “isolating drudgery” with students spending hours by themselves in tiny rooms with rats and mice as their only friends, according to the Times, which also interviewed officials from similar doctoral programs.
“There’s a lot of time when you’re just alone, [and] it’s very easy to get lost in those periods of isolation,” said Shawn E. Nielsen, a doctoral student at a similar program at UC-Irvine.
Holmes graduated at the top of his class from the University of California – Riverside in 2010, but was apparently slipping behind in graduate school. He reportedly failed an important exam before buying one of the guns he allegedly used to shoot dozens of people last Friday.
Barry Shur, dean of the University of Colorado-Denver’s graduate school, hinted to the LA Times that the program is not for everybody.
“It requires someone with enormous perseverance and an underlying passion for the science to get them through it: ‘I have to do this experiment again, and again, and again to find out if it’s right or wrong,'” Shur said. “A lot of people get worn down.”
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