Volcano Researcher Asked to Leave Program*

Alissa Jones, Princeton Reporter Staff

June 16, 1999

Preeminent volcano researcher Soren Anderson was asked to withdraw from his doctoral studies in the Department of Geography at Princeton University during his recent dissertation defense.

Anderson’s committee cited irregularities in research methods, inadequate preparation, and lack of originality with respect to research topic.

Anderson has indicated that his committee’s concerns are “totally bogus” and that there is some sort of witch hunt going on. “Edgar Giordano didn’t even exist until two weeks ago,” Anderson claims. He believes that there is a university-wide effort to suppress his research for some reason. “I don’t really care what they think of me. It’s a question of academic freedom and integrity,” Anderson said, “and something really fishy is happening that everybody should be aware of.”

Nobody on Anderson’s committee was available for comment. Department Chair Donald Miller has recently retired and is on extended vacation in South America. Anderson’s dissertation advisor, Fred Lee, had an unfortunate heart attack and passed away two days before Anderson’s defense.

Anderson has submitted the letter received from his committee to be reprinted in its entirety.

Anderson does not plan to grieve the termination as he indicates “there would be no point.


Soren Anderson

Address Withheld


June 9, 1999

Dear Soren Anderson,

This letter officially terminates your doctoral studies at Princeton University. As stated during your comprehensive examination, your committee had several serious concerns with your research proposal and preparation for the exam. You did not address these concerns in your subsequent dissertation.

As you know, dissertation research must be completely original and constitute a significant contribution to your discipline. We direct you to the traditional definition of originality in academia by Lorner and Burns.

“Original research is research that has not been done, proved or seen before. It should contribute to knowledge, changes the way people think nd moves the field forward.”

We do not feel that your study of the flood basalts on Baffin Island has advanced our discipline sufficiently. We would like to point you to several studies undertaken by Edgar Giordano in the same geographic location with the same intent. It is unfortunate that neither your comprehensive exam paper nor your dissertation mentioned Giordano’s work. Being aware of all the work in your specific field is imperative to successful doctoral work.

In addition, we would like to state for the record that the hypothesis you are advancing regarding the potential links among flood basalts and the K-T extinction to be preposterous. We feel that the Alvarez hypothesis was inadequately treated in your examination and showed a lack of full appreciation for the work undertaken by Rethoret and Simons in this regard.

Further, there are problems relating to the statistical methods you employed in your dissertation research. These problems were itemized in detail by committee member Herman Rethoret in his letter dated March 8, 1999. Despite receiving this letter, you failed to change the statistical methods submitted in your second draft dated April 28, 1999.

Finally, your outburst at your defense during Dr. Rethoret’s questioning was unprofessional. We hold our students to the highest standard of behavior during formal processes.

Should you wish to appeal this decision, you must do so with the Board of Appeals within three months of receipt of this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Donald Miller


Department of Geography

Princeton University

*This article is an easter egg for the novel Apocalypse Weird: Reversal. It is a work of fiction. Any references to real people, events, locales or organizations are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are imaginary, and any resemblance to actual places, events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.