OK guys… this is really happening. In less than four weeks I will be standing on a podium, in front of five professors and all my friends and family to defend my PhD thesis. I can’t believe it. I can’t tell you how many times I have imagined that moment, how many times I have looked forward to my PhD defense. I am still beyond excited – but also terrified.
I know what they say – everyone gets through it and nobody has ever unsuccessfully defended their PhD thesis (and if you do know these stories, please refrain from sharing them with me until after March 28th, thank you). Still: it’s a big deal. I have worked towards this moment for five years and I am so proud of myself. As much as I look forward to publicly discussing my research in front of everyone I love (hi guys – look how awesome I am!) I am also determined to do it well. This is what most PhD students will tell you: we know we’ll get through the dreaded defense, but please let it go well. Let us look good PLEASE GOD.
The scary PhD defense
The fear is to get a question you don’t know the answer to. Or to get that question where a committee member refers to a complicated table on page 65 of your dissertation and specifically that one number in the second column, third row, which seems a bit off. Wait… what? This article has been reviewed. Published, even. My supervisors approved this article!! But no, there’s nobody to blame. You should know the answer. This is your research, your table with numbers that apparently don’t seem right. So what do you do?
I know there are a number of ways to deal with this and all of those include simply refraining from answering the actual question. Oh hey, see that figure on page 66? That’s cool. I’ll talk about that for a bit. Oh, and the table is actually based on some theory I know quite well and will now discuss. I also based some cool conclusions on that table with faulty statistics. Here they are! And your question? I don’t even remember it and we’re now moving on because time is running out and other people have questions too.
Scary but exciting
Of course I know that I am an expert when it comes to the content of my dissertation. I literally know it inside out by now. But that doesn’t mean I’m not nervous, because the members of my committee are also experts and their expertise surpasses mine by far. I am just getting started. I am nervous, but like I said at the beginning of this post: I am beyond excited. I am almost there. I can barely believe it.
I was just talking about this last week with my supervisor: as much as I dread the defense, if someone would tell me that I could get my PhD without publicly defending it, I would not like that. I want to defend it, I want to stand in front of my friends, family, colleagues and the committee and show them how much I’ve learned and how much I do know. Although there will be nerves, shaky legs, a racing heart and questions I won’t immediately know the answer to, I can’t wait. March 28th can’t come soon enough!