Hey BS&M fans, thanks for sticking around. We’ve had fewer journal club meetings than usual this semester (and thus, fewer papers to blog about) thanks to a host of awesome guest speakers and, now, two successful dissertation defenses in as many months! Major BS&M congrats go out to Dr. Sarah Hlubik and Dr. Mareike Janiak, whose names you might recognize from their guest blog posts on mystery spit and Cretan footprints.
For the readers who aren’t in academia, the dissertation defense is the culmination of a person’s graduate student career. While the format varies from school to school, there tend to be some common elements. After a PhD candidate submits their written dissertation to their committee members (made up of their main advisor[s], department members with complementary areas of expertise, and an “outside” expert or two from another university), they schedule a time and place for a public “defense” of their dissertation (some schools call this a “Final Public Oral Examination”). For us at Rutgers, the defense itself is a 40-50 minute powerpoint presentation on our work, followed by questions from our committee, followed by public questions. The whole thing generally takes between an hour and a half and two and a half hours.
The dissertation defense is a stressful rite of passage that has been likened to a snake fight. It’s also incredibly rewarding for the fellow grad students in the audience, because, while we know generally what our friends are working on, we rarely get into the nitty-gritty details of it with them. The defense is an opportunity to celebrate their hard work and hear them get called “Doctor” for the first time (the novelty of which has yet to wear off for me, personally).
So, here’s a toast to Dr. Hlubik: may you find Prometheus in the Kenyan desert.
And to Dr. Janiak: may your exoskeletons be chinitous and your copy numbers variable.