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So all of the considered reasoning and description and discussion was merely "put through an internal process in" her head.

I think that's a bit of an leap - isn't it also possible that she actually took your "How to think about science" essay to heart, and realized that she didn't actually want to do it? This is not uncommon, even if someone is good at something - even if they're the best - that doesn't necessarily mean that they should pursue it.

When I used to advise grad students in the context of GRE training, I considered myself very successful when I talked students out of pursuing graduate education in fields that they were not passionate enough about to commit themselves to properly (or, in a couple of sad cases, where they flat out didn't have the skills - this happened a couple of times with people hoping to go into physics or math that just weren't good enough at math to make it, and as horrible as it was to do so, I had to be honest [gently] about that fact).

This is particularly relevant to me because I was one of those people that understood (and I like to think, still understands) how science is done, was good at it, even had a passion for it, and still decided to pursue another path - I've written the very e-mail that you mention, though it was "program computers" instead of "become a judge". But I think very highly of the professors that gave me an accurate and honest view of how tough the field was (physics, in my case) and how it functioned. Though they might have been disappointed that their feedback played a part in my staying away (honestly, it was money - I realized that unless I was a shining star in the field [I wasn't], I'd probably never have enough, and I didn't have it in me), I consider it to have been extremely important in my decision, and for that I'm really grateful.




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