Sunday, November 8, 2009

The morning after

After some late night, therapeutic baking, I realized that yesterday's post was sort of a downer. I had not originally intended for it to be such, but it seems that the blogging center of my brain takes unintended detours sometimes. I considered taking it down because (a) it was a bit depressing, and (b) it's very personal. But it is part of who I am, so it stays, at least for now.

Part of the original intention of the post was this. I know a couple of grad students who are entering the dissertation phase swing by periodically. Generally grad students view the defense date with this great sense of dread. They see it as a day where their fate hangs in the balance, the day that decides whether they become a Ph.D. scientist or not. However, I think, under most circumstances in science grad programs, the truth is your fate has already been decided before you set foot in that room. At least, this has been my experience and the experience of basically every Ph.D. I know. You may have a committee member that gives you a hard time, maybe more than one, but they are usually the ones that have done so in every committee meeting you've had.

You should absolutely prepare for your defense, polish your presentation, practice. You're talking about something that you've invested in for years, something that you are the world's expert on. You should take pride in your work, and part of that is presenting it to your colleagues in a polished, professional manner. You've been working toward this for a long time. Don't forget to enjoy the achievement.

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Dr Becca, PhD said...

Don't apologize--your post yesterday was incredibly moving...a beautiful and sad read that deserves to be out there.

With respect to the original intent, you're spot on. Of course there are tough committee members, but the reality is that you know the context of your research better than anyone, and if you've done a good job of communicating with your committee throughout the course of your thesis work, your closed-door defense will likely be more of a grown-up and scholarly discussion than an oral test.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

One thing that can happen in the committee that is unforeseen and undesirable is being required to do more experiments. I have seen this happen in a situation where one of the committee members suggests a line of experimental inquiry and the candidate--instead of saying "What a great idea for future studies! I will add that to my Discussion!"--argued vehemently that it would be fruitless. The committee member forced the candidate to do the experiments before she would sign off on the dissertation.

Candid Engineer said...

I considered taking it down because (a) it was a bit depressing, and (b) it's very personal.

WTF. There is nothing remotely wrong with your previous post. Most of us don't maintain blogs because we intend to constantly fart sunshine. We are real people, and it's important for readers to see science through the eyes of someone living a real life- the good and the bad.

biochem belle said...

@ PhysioProf: Ouch. Perhaps this would be a good time to point out for the grad students in the audience that (1) you should try to establish a good rapport with committee members and (2) you can engage in respectful collegial debates but arguments rarely end well for the student.

@DrBecca and CE: Thanks for the encouragement to leave the prev. post up. It's the sort of thing that I don't usu. share. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of my current colleagues are completely unaware of the situations. But as CE pointed out, this is about real life, no matter how shiny the farts ;)