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Unless there's an interest in changing schools and advisors or a desire to work on different questions, I don't think so.  When my husband and I were in grad school 20 years ago, me in science and him in engineering, few people that we knew earned a MS first.  We did know a few who had planned  to earn an MS and others who took a break to work between the 2.  It seemed very field-specific, though, so this advice might not apply to his exact field..in our department, some of the population biologists had MS degrees from elsewhere when they entered the PhD program, but all of the molecular genetics students were direct-entry PhD.  

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What area is he studying?  I did a PhD without an MS.  Things to consider are the structuring of the program he is interested in (would he be able to get a masters and leave if he doesn't like the program), is there a particular slant to the program of being applied or theoretical that he is most interested in, and funding availability.  

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If you have a Ph.D., I can't imagine anyone cares whether you have an M.S. in the same field, but it seems that some students who are planning to go into industry, rather than academia, see a benefit to picking up an M.S. in a related field along the way. An acquaintance who is getting a Ph.D. in physics but has an M.S. in materials science that he threw in seems to think it will be an advantage in the job market. My math Ph.D. student daughter who plans to go into academia has no reason to pick up an M.S. in math along the way. She has known several math students enter the M.S. program in the hopes of transferring to the Ph.D. program once they prove themselves as researchers and, of course, Ph.D. students can typically master-out of the Ph.D. program if they get tired of being in school, change their career goals or, as one of her friends who mastered-out of a C.S. Ph.D. put it, "get tired of being poor."

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I had some classmates in grad school who strategically sought a masters at one school and a PhD at a second school to work with specific professors and add interest to their resume for eventual academic job placement.  These were absolutely tip top Ivy League students who are now R1 professors.  I don’t know how much these kinds of strategic considerations would apply to us mere mortals.  They would also be very, very field specific. 

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PhD programs, especially in STEM fields, are often fully funded, not so much for MS degrees. If he wants to get a PhD, I would encourage him to apply directly to those programs. He then may or may not pick up an MS along the way. He may even change his mind and decide to stop at a Masters. That is incredibly common.

My husband’s grad program only accepted people for PhDs and they were all fully funded, but some who stopped before finishing but had met the requirements got an MS. Others got no degree. My program accepted people to an MS/PhD program and everyone was fully funded. Part of the oral Master’s thesis defense was oral comp exams if one desired to go for a PhD. By that point many had decided they no longer wanted a PhD, others did not pass the oral comps. They all received an MS, as long as they successfully defended their thesis.

The only reason I could see for getting a Master’s first is if he thinks it would make him a significantly stronger candidate for certain PhD programs. Depending on his goals and field, the name of the school can be incredibly important. Some job markets for PhDs are incredibly competitive. In general, I would advice going to the highest ranked program that is a good fit and only choosing a fully funded PhD program. While most people have to pay for some or all professional doctorate programs, I think it’s rarely a good decision to pay for an academic PhD.

Edited by Frances
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3 hours ago, plansrme said:

If you have a Ph.D., I can't imagine anyone cares whether you have an M.S. in the same field, but it seems that some students who are planning to go into industry, rather than academia, see a benefit to picking up an M.S. in a related field along the way. An acquaintance who is getting a Ph.D. in physics but has an M.S. in materials science that he threw in seems to think it will be an advantage in the job market. My math Ph.D. student daughter who plans to go into academia has no reason to pick up an M.S. in math along the way. She has known several math students enter the M.S. program in the hopes of transferring to the Ph.D. program once they prove themselves as researchers and, of course, Ph.D. students can typically master-out of the Ph.D. program if they get tired of being in school, change their career goals or, as one of her friends who mastered-out of a C.S. Ph.D. put it, "get tired of being poor."

Ha! That was me—tired of being poor. I bailed-out with a M.S. rather than finish the Ph.D. after being offered a lucrative internship-turned permanent job offer in industry. I was glad that my program had a terminal M.S. degree built-in. 

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me too. I entered the PhD program (CompSci) and bailed out mid-way. I didn't intend to ever teach, and the job opportunity came along that was the PhD was supposed to enable, so that's what I did. No regrets.

At least a the time, my advisor was very hesitant to take on PhD students who already had a MS.  He had MS students, but they were handled differently. 100% of his PhD students had paid research assistant positions (grant funded). He didn't want new PhD students who already had a MS because you didn't expect them to be there long enough to make it worth it. If you got someone in w/ just a BS you could expect they'd be around for 5-6 years - long enough to take that paid RA position and do some really significant, long-term, research projects.

From a hiring prospective, now that I'm on the corporate side of things, I can't imagine an MS in the same field as a PhD making any difference. If you had an MS in some other field I suppose it might. I do run across engineering PhDs who also have an MBA occasionally, and that's useful.  But good lord that's a lot of schooling. I'm certain I wouldn't want to go down that road.

 

 

 

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Oh, I am so naive in this.  I am telling my son, who is interested in Physics or astrophysics (if they have it), that he needs to do a Master's and Phd to get a good job.  There was a time he wanted to teach at a college/university but now he really wants to do research.

He found a university that has 4+1 BS/Masters program for physics, with prominent astropysics professors.  So, you are telling me, he doesnt have to do Masters if he is interested in Phd?

If someone wants to do research in the world, they should have a Phd--Correct???

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I don't know about astrophysics, but in general if you want to be in charge of your own research, you usually need a PhD. That being said, at that point a bunch of your job may be teaching, grant writing, paper reviewing, etc.  In a lot of fields, the postdoc years (between earning the PhD and starting a faculty job) are your best research years.  But, some of this is field-specific.  National labs (Oak Ridge, Sandia, JPL, Los Alamos, Argonne, etc) also have people who do mostly research, as do some companies.  Also, at some places (companies or national labs) it can be possible to do research with a masters, although I'm not sure how much this applies to astrophysics.  Also, some professors have lab managers who run projects and have a masters, and others have research scientists with PhDs in their labs.  These jobs aren't particularly secure, which is why many people pursue faculty jobs despite having less time for research.  

Just so you know where I'm coming from, I have a PhD in genetics (molecular biology), my husband has one in computer engineering, and several of our college roommates have PhDs in various science and engineering fields.  Between us, we've spent time in academia at research universities, private industry, national labs, and teaching colleges, so I've seen different perspectives but haven't known people who did every job in every field.  

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And, a 4+1 program might make more sense than doing a BS at one place, then doing a 2 year MS somewhere, and then going somewhere else to do a PhD.  I don't know how they are perceived, but I'd think that makes more sense than earning 3 separate degrees at 4 places, and would likely be faster.  

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On 11/11/2020 at 4:24 PM, Nicholas_mom said:

Oh, I am so naive in this.  I am telling my son, who is interested in Physics or astrophysics (if they have it), that he needs to do a Master's and Phd to get a good job.  There was a time he wanted to teach at a college/university but now he really wants to do research.

He found a university that has 4+1 BS/Masters program for physics, with prominent astropysics professors.  So, you are telling me, he doesnt have to do Masters if he is interested in Phd?

If someone wants to do research in the world, they should have a Phd--Correct???

A lot of Ph.D. programs do not even offer a Master's. Stanford, for instance, in math, offers an M.S. only for current Stanford undergrads. But that tells you a lot about how useful they think a Master's degree is for a Ph.D. student. Also, the STEM Ph.D. program may be mostly research. This varies from one program to another, but my daughter's program (math at Stanford) does not even have any required class hours. Anyway, although you can do research with only an M.S., the Ph.D. will open up many more research doors. Although it seems like a long five-year commitment when you're 22, it is not five more years of class. It is more of a five-year internship. You almost certainly get paid; you have an office; you have colleagues. It is very different from undergrad and much more like a real job.

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On 11/11/2020 at 1:24 PM, Nicholas_mom said:

Oh, I am so naive in this.  I am telling my son, who is interested in Physics or astrophysics (if they have it), that he needs to do a Master's and Phd to get a good job.  There was a time he wanted to teach at a college/university but now he really wants to do research.

He found a university that has 4+1 BS/Masters program for physics, with prominent astropysics professors.  So, you are telling me, he doesnt have to do Masters if he is interested in Phd?

If someone wants to do research in the world, they should have a Phd--Correct???

Even with a PhD from an excellent university, getting a good research job in his areas of interest may be difficult. He needs to be prepared for that. I would only advise pursuing a PhD in physics or astrophysics if he really can’t imagine doing anything else and it is fully funded. I’ve worked with several PhD physicists over the years, none of whom were working as physicists, even though that is what they ideally wanted to be doing. That’s not to say he couldn’t get a good job in lots of other areas with a physics PhD. Depending on his area of specialization and research, he would likely have very strong skills in math, programming, data analytics, etc. that would be very attractive to a wide range of employers.

Edited by Frances
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56 minutes ago, Frances said:

Even with a PhD from an excellent university, getting a good research job in his areas of interest may be difficult. He needs to be prepared for that. 

I've also heard anecdotally that there is an oversupply of physics PhDs.  There's pretty much an oversupply of PhDs in all fields, but some are more marketable to industry than others.  

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14 hours ago, plansrme said:

A lot of Ph.D. programs do not even offer a Master's. Stanford, for instance, in math, offers an M.S. only for current Stanford undergrads. But that tells you a lot about how useful they think a Master's degree is for a Ph.D. student. Also, the STEM Ph.D. program may be mostly research. This varies from one program to another, but my daughter's program (math at Stanford) does not even have any required class hours. Anyway, although you can do research with only an M.S., the Ph.D. will open up many more research doors. Although it seems like a long five-year commitment when you're 22, it is not five more years of class. It is more of a five-year internship. You almost certainly get paid; you have an office; you have colleagues. It is very different from undergrad and much more like a real job.

Is your dd earning a math PhD from Stanford?  That's great to hear, congrats!  

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15 hours ago, daijobu said:

Is your dd earning a math PhD from Stanford?  That's great to hear, congrats!  

Whoa, just like me. 

And you CAN get a Masters from Stanford, lol. You just have to flunk out of the Ph.D program 😉 . At least that was the case when I was there... there were a few kids who didn't make it through their quals and left with a Masters. 

Edited by Not_a_Number
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It really varies a lot.

In my cohort in graduate school, most were going for an M.S. and a few for a PhD. I decided to get just an M.S. after a major showdown with my dissertation advisor. The head of the graduate program tried to convince me to switch to him, but I just took my degree and went off on a paid sabbatical that I lined up. I ended up staying there and never went back to my original employer. Everyone else going for a PhD finished. All of the M.S. people finished, and one who got their M.S. took off a few years and then went back and got their PhD. 

For me, getting an M.S. was plenty. I was burning out in research and went into policy and program management. Now I teach at the community college level. That's really all I needed. 

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I thought ds had told me he was awarded his masters this summer.  I asked him today.  He said Berkeley automatically awards their PhD physics students a masters on their way through to their PhD.  Both he and his wife received masters diplomas (both physics, but in completely different areas) in the mail this summer even though both are still pursuing their PhDs.

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In Herpetology (and wildlife ecology in general), direct to PhD is common, but most programs offer the option of leaving with a masters, and many encourage students who want to go into more practical areas of the field (like working with an NGO like Ducks Unlimited, or working for a state wildlife resources agency or in a state or national park) to apply for jobs when they could reasonably get a master's. If they get a good offer, graduate with the Masters and take it. The PhD is required for jobs in academia, but someone with a PhD does not necessarily have any advantage on the other jobs, and can actually be seen as overqualified for government jobs with a set pay scale that automatically pays more for higher degrees. But, funding is usually limited to PhD students, so you want to apply like you are going for the PhD. 

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On 11/13/2020 at 9:23 PM, Frances said:

Even with a PhD from an excellent university, getting a good research job in his areas of interest may be difficult. He needs to be prepared for that. I would only advise pursuing a PhD in physics or astrophysics if he really can’t imagine doing anything else and it is fully funded. I’ve worked with several PhD physicists over the years, none of whom were working as physicists, even though that is what they ideally wanted to be doing. 

this. the number of physics PhDs appears to exceed the number of physics research jobs. I've worked with several people with Physics PhDs, all of whom found their eventual careers writing fairly mathy software (numerical minimization, physical simulations, and similar). Honestly, they were really great at it. But they weren't doing physics.

 

re: oversupply of PhDs in every field...about 20% of the engineers I work with have CS PhDs and we heavily recruit from all the major universities in the US. PhD in CompSci is very marketable. Most don't end up doing research, but rather the more advanced/difficult portions of commercial software engineering. You can usually get into those roles w/o a PhD, but it sometimes takes longer.

Edited by AEC
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@Nicholas_mom I just read through the responses in the thread and I wanted to encourage your ds to pursue physics if that is what he wants to do.  Will he end up with a career pursuing the field of research he envisions as a high school student?  Who knows? Maybe. Maybe not.  But regardless, having a PhD in physics is a highly marketable degree that can lead to a wide variety of jobs, even if not his idealized vision.

My ds fell in love with physics when he was in 8th grade.  He is now a 3 yr physics grad student.  Would he have been happy pursuing any other field? No.  He started at Berkeley with plans on pursuing cosmology.  Guess what?  He has changed his plan bc (the practical married man side of him took over) he has decided to pursue a different field that is heavily govt funded with very high employability.  I don't even understand what it is he is doing, but it has something to do with populations, evacuations, traffic, urban development, ??  It is far removed from galaxy formation and space!  But, equally, he says he is really enjoying the research.

All that to say, if he wants to pursue physics, encourage him.  There is no end to the opportunities to what he can do.  Funding for grad school is great.  Ds received great funding offers from all of the schools he applied to. But, I would encourage your ds to understand that opportunities with a BS in physics are limited.  I would disagree with the ladies here and say that the opportunities for MS are more plentiful than BS but more limited than PhD.   During a PhD program he will also be exposed to a lot of people and lot of ideas.  He can redirect or stay the course.  

More importantly, he doesn't need to make firm decisions now.  He does need to understand that grad school is likely.  In terms of where he attends UG, the "He found a university that has 4+1 BS/Masters program for physics, with prominent astropysics professors," is unnecessary.  Grad school admissions is going to be based on GPA/courses, UG research, LOR, and PGRE scores.  My ds attended a school with zero reputation for physics.   He decided on the school bc he was accepted into the research honors program and started researching his freshman yr.  He had tons of research experience by the time he graduated with his BS.  (in addition to his U's research where he ended up working directly on his professor's research team alongside her grad students and post-docs, he had multiple REUs at different Us.)  Based on poster bias, one would have thought his grad school application season would have been abysmal bc he didn't attend a top physics research U for UG.  Contrary to that popular belief, he was accepted to tippy top physics programs across the country.  (I think if he had attended some of the UG programs he had been accepted to that he would have been less competitive for grad school bc he would have been competing for research opportunities vs. having been a star researcher at Bama.  He also graduated from UG with $$ saved bc he attended on full-ride+ and lived very frugally.)

Edited by 8filltheheart
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Thank you everyone it is in a STEM program. He's just unsure he wants to take out loans for the program. He's torn between wanting to stay around this area or get the degree he wants. He wants to work with Databases in AI field but being a phd @22 with debt he's weary of. He's thinking a masters certificate then working part time or on stand by. At this point any education he decides is just icing on the cake. 

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 I just read through the responses in the thread and I wanted to encourage your ds to pursue physics if that is what he wants to do.  Will he end up with a career pursuing the field of research he envisions as a high school student?  Who knows? Maybe. Maybe not.  But regardless, having a PhD in physics is a highly marketable degree that can lead to a wide variety of jobs, even if not his idealized vision.

Thank you 8filltheheart for your encouragement and advice for my son.  I appreciate it.     

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On 11/20/2020 at 4:18 AM, 8filltheheart said:

@Nicholas_mom I just read through the responses in the thread and I wanted to encourage your ds to pursue physics if that is what he wants to do.  Will he end up with a career pursuing the field of research he envisions as a high school student?  Who knows? Maybe. Maybe not.  But regardless, having a PhD in physics is a highly marketable degree that can lead to a wide variety of jobs, even if not his idealized vision.

My ds fell in love with physics when he was in 8th grade.  He is now a 3 yr physics grad student.  Would he have been happy pursuing any other field? No.  He started at Berkeley with plans on pursuing cosmology.  Guess what?  He has changed his plan bc (the practical married man side of him took over) he has decided to pursue a different field that is heavily govt funded with very high employability.  I don't even understand what it is he is doing, but it has something to do with populations, evacuations, traffic, urban development, ??  It is far removed from galaxy formation and space!  But, equally, he says he is really enjoying the research.

All that to say, if he wants to pursue physics, encourage him.  There is no end to the opportunities to what he can do.  Funding for grad school is great.  Ds received great funding offers from all of the schools he applied to. But, I would encourage your ds to understand that opportunities with a BS in physics are limited.  I would disagree with the ladies here and say that the opportunities for MS are more plentiful than BS but more limited than PhD.   During a PhD program he will also be exposed to a lot of people and lot of ideas.  He can redirect or stay the course.  

More importantly, he doesn't need to make firm decisions now.  He does need to understand that grad school is likely.  In terms of where he attends UG, the "He found a university that has 4+1 BS/Masters program for physics, with prominent astropysics professors," is unnecessary.  Grad school admissions is going to be based on GPA/courses, UG research, LOR, and PGRE scores.  My ds attended a school with zero reputation for physics.   He decided on the school bc he was accepted into the research honors program and started researching his freshman yr.  He had tons of research experience by the time he graduated with his BS.  (in addition to his U's research where he ended up working directly on his professor's research team alongside her grad students and post-docs, he had multiple REUs at different Us.)  Based on poster bias, one would have thought his grad school application season would have been abysmal bc he didn't attend a top physics research U for UG.  Contrary to that popular belief, he was accepted to tippy top physics programs across the country.  (I think if he had attended some of the UG programs he had been accepted to that he would have been less competitive for grad school bc he would have been competing for research opportunities vs. having been a star researcher at Bama.  He also graduated from UG with $$ saved bc he attended on full-ride+ and lived very frugally.)

I’m confused about your comment about poster bias indicating his grad school application season would have been abysmal. Is that from this thread? While I saw people advocating for a student choosing a top PhD program (as your son did) in order to keep as many career doors as possible open, I didn’t see anyone talking about the importance of a certain undergrad program, but maybe I missed it. It’s pretty well known that lots of small LACs (including many out of the top 25 or even 50) are among the colleges sending students on to top PhD programs, and none of them would be considered top STEM research universities, as they don’t even grant PhDs.

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On 11/20/2020 at 8:02 AM, Miguelsmom said:

Thank you everyone it is in a STEM program. He's just unsure he wants to take out loans for the program. He's torn between wanting to stay around this area or get the degree he wants. He wants to work with Databases in AI field but being a phd @22 with debt he's weary of. He's thinking a masters certificate then working part time or on stand by. At this point any education he decides is just icing on the cake. 

All good PhD STEM programs will be fully funded meaning tuition will be paid and he will receive a stipend to live on, usually for doing research or being a TA. Some students might get fellowships instead of assistantships and then there is no work requirement, although of course they are doing lots of research for their PhD. Many now also include health insurance. There is no reason to take on debt beyond undergrad to acquire a STEM PhD.
I know someone who went through the application process two years ago for AI PhD programs. He did already have an MS in a different STEM field after an undergrad physics degree, but it was through a special program that front loaded all of the classes and then finished with a long paid internship, so many students could break even. Then he went to work for the company where he did his internship (a name everyone would recognize) and worked his way into the AI division. Then he decided to get a PhD in that field. So he’s not a new grad. It was a competitive application year because the field is so hot right now, but he did get a few fully funded offers from top programs and is at one of them now.

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4 hours ago, Frances said:

I’m confused about your comment about poster bias indicating his grad school application season would have been abysmal. Is that from this thread? While I saw people advocating for a student choosing a top PhD program (as your son did) in order to keep as many career doors as possible open, I didn’t see anyone talking about the importance of a certain undergrad program, but maybe I missed it. It’s pretty well known that lots of small LACs (including many out of the top 25 or even 50) are among the colleges sending students on to top PhD programs, and none of them would be considered top STEM research universities, as they don’t even grant PhDs.

No, not posters in this thread.  My comment was a combination of directing it toward the OP poster bc she commented, "He found a university that has 4+1 BS/Masters program for physics, with prominent astropysics professors," and my experience being in her position 9 yrs ago when my ds was a high school jr (and the general theme being he needed to attend a school that was higher ranked than Bama and had a good track record of physics grad school placement, etc.  Pretty sure all of the posters back then thought his future was going to be limited by opting for Bama.)  I'm glad we didn't listen to the advice bc he received a great education with professors who cared,  received a lot of personal attention, and was paid to go to college.  

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On 11/11/2020 at 3:24 PM, Nicholas_mom said:

Oh, I am so naive in this.  I am telling my son, who is interested in Physics or astrophysics (if they have it), that he needs to do a Master's and Phd to get a good job.  There was a time he wanted to teach at a college/university but now he really wants to do research.

He found a university that has 4+1 BS/Masters program for physics, with prominent astropysics professors.  So, you are telling me, he doesnt have to do Masters if he is interested in Phd?

If someone wants to do research in the world, they should have a Phd--Correct???

That is correct. In physics, the PhD is the terminal degree. However, there are situations where a Masters makes sense: for students who do not aim at a career at a research university but who might want to teach at a community college; for students who want to obtain jobs that require "any" MS degree; for students who want to extend their time at their undergraduate university for another year for a variety of reasons; for students who do not have the aptitude for a PhD but want some graduate degree.

Two thirds of all physics graduates continue on to graduate school. One third of physics grads does not; they still get "good jobs". Industry does not care much about the PhD; our graduates who left after their BS are working in aircraft deign, medical IT software development, teaching abroad.

Let me know if you have further questions. I am the  academic advisor for our physics department t a public STEM uni.

ETA: The caliber of his undergraduate school will have less of an effect his grad school admission than the quality of his undergraduate research. With many schools ditching the GRE, undergrad research, besides GPA and LORs, will be the top criterion. If he is interested in grad school, choosing a department where he will have lots of opportunities to do research with faculty is important. The precise specialization does not matter; in physics, you specialize in graduate school; aside from a few electives you get to pick, the curriculum is pretty much filled with required courses.

Edited by regentrude
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9 hours ago, 8filltheheart said:

No, not posters in this thread.  My comment was a combination of directing it toward the OP poster bc she commented, ...

OH!!!

I thought you meant a poster you might present at a conference.  I was wondering why his research poster would doom his grad school application.  

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