Finishing a degree is both a joyous and possibly stressful occasion. This summer, after 6 years of hard work and determination, Kate Buckman, the PhD student in my lab, completed her doctoral work. Yesterday, she gave her public talk and closed-door defense. The public presentation lasted about 45 minutes and was followed by questions. Then there was the scary part (or at least I imagine it was scary for Kate)…
When you complete a PhD, you have a committee of specialists who are meant to keep you and your work on track. When you defend your thesis, you are holed up in a conference room with your committee and they essentially grill you on details about methods and results until they are satisfied that you (a) are 100% comfortable with and confident in the work you’ve done and (b) can stand up to rigorous peer review in the scientific world. After many questions and intense discussion, you leave the room and the committee “deliberates.”
When Kate’s committee was deliberating, we sat around the lab distracting her with mindless internet surfing. (picture below)
When eventually called back into the room, the PhD committee gives you a list of revisions and possibly another list of things they think you still need to complete, including lab assays or statistical analysis. Rarely are the revisions extensive and almost always, the student leaves with the knowledge that he/she has completed the rigors of life as a PhD student.
Kate’s talk was awesome and her closed defense session went really well (I wasn’t there, clearly, but I heard great things)! Now I get to call her “Doc” whenever I ask her questions. =) After the successful presentation and defense, we held a lovely reception for Kate in the lobby of our lab building. Dr. Tim Shank, our adviser, gave a lovely toast to Kate and everyone enjoyed a bit of champagne.
Being present for Kate’s defense really got me thinking about what course I want to take now that I’m navigating the post-college waters. As I think I’ve said before, I am ultimately interested in being involved in marine conservation policy. I am extremely intrigued by the interaction of science and policy and want to find a niche working to bring policy makers and scientists together on common ground.
There are several ways I think someone could end up working to accomplish that goal including any number of policy or science masters degrees, PhD programs, and law school options. The possibilities abound. I have to say, though, it’s pretty inspiring to see people like Kate come out of the Joint Program with many years of hard work and a lot to show for it! Hmmm… Dr. Eleanor Bors has a pretty nice ring to it…