Saturday, July 28, 2012

Neuroscience Ph.D. Program Can Be Isolating, Competitive, and Highly Demanding

At the Los Angeles Times, "Colorado suspect's field of study was rarefied and rigorous":

AURORA, Colo. — James Holmes inhabited an academic world so wondrous it could unlock the chemical code to human behavior, so complex that few outside the nation's brilliant cloister of neuroscientists could begin to comprehend it.

The graduate neuroscience program at the University of Colorado-Denver's Anschutz Medical Campus ranks among the top third of graduate programs in neuroscience — the study of the brain, its 100 billion nerve cells, and the connections among those cells that control thought and action.

"If I go to a bar and somebody asks me what I do, all I say is research," said David Cantu, who got his doctorate from the program. "If I'd tell people I was specializing in mitochondrial reactive oxygen species and how it pertains to cell deaths … people's eyes would start to glaze over."

It's the same program that Holmes, suspected of killing 12 patrons and injuring 58 at a movie theater last week, recently dropped after his first year.

Interviews with top directors of the university's graduate program, and others outside the school, provide a glimpse into the lives of those who choose such a rigorous course of study. The Colorado program has been largely shuttered to public view since Holmes' arrest July 20, a month after he announced plans to abandon his graduate studies there.

The interviews on that campus were conducted on the basis that Holmes not be discussed, but what emerges is a vivid portrait of the intense world in which the 24-year-old student lived over the last year.

In this rarefied and often high-pressure environment, students who are already near the best of their game are asked to exponentially expand their capabilities, frequently under stiff competition, and often in isolation.
Continue reading.

Holmes couldn't take the pressure, for a variety of reasons, and his academic problems seem to be the main cause of his psychological meltdown --- and the massacre.


* "Suspect James Holmes Was Seeing Psychiatrist at University Before Massacre."

* "Suspect James Holmes No Easy Fit for Mass Murderer Profile."

* "Suspect James Holmes' Rapid Descent."

* "James Holmes' Academic Frustration and Social Isolation."

RELATED: The suspect's father Robert Holmes is a lead scientist at FICO with degrees from Berkeley and UCLA. He may have put a lot of pressure on James, who was adopted. See: "James Holmes Snapped After Failing Key University Exam. Couldn’t Live Up to His Brilliant Father." And "Did Colorado maniac snap after failing to meet expectations of brilliant academic father? Killer bought guns after failing key university exam."

BONUS: At WPTV News 5 (West Palm Beach), "James Holmes, theater shooting suspect: Psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Fenton had treated him in the past."