(POSITIVE?) Stories of the PhD thesis defense — R Voice

(POSITIVE?) Stories of the PhD thesis defense

Jayashree Rajagopalan
Jayashree Rajagopalan Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 262 admin

Take a look at this amazing Twitter thread where researchers are sharing some great and very inspiring positive experiences of their thesis defense. One researcher defended her PhD using a sword as a prop all through the process - she cleared it :-)

How was your thesis defense experience? Do you have any memories to share? @Shruti Turner @Raj sundaram @Yufita Chinta @Lidia Lins @Asli Telli @Suman Mundkur @Yuliya Shtaltovna @Karen Hall @Nicholas Rowe @Kristína Krajcikova @Roberto Spiezio @chris leonard Feel free to call out any more folks who may have defended their theses.


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  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 404 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Jayashree Rajagopalan I saw this thread too! I found it last night and kept it to read this morning. It filled me with such confidence and was so reassuring.

    Thank you for your confidence in me that you think I am already a Doctor!! Alas, my virtual viva is scheduled for just over a month's time. I will be keeping an eye on this thread though as well as the one on Twitter.

  • Jayashree Rajagopalan
    Jayashree Rajagopalan Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 262 admin

    Then I look forward to a post about it on your blog or a little something here for fellow R Voicers here! All the best for it :-)

  • Jayashree Rajagopalan
    Jayashree Rajagopalan Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 262 admin

    Also @Shruti Turner - it's as a good sign...you're already PhDone in the eyes of many 🤗

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 404 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Jayashree Rajagopalan Thank you! There will surely be a blog post or two in the run up and after 😂

    I don't quite have the faith in myself yet that I am done, still very worried about major corrections! I'm working on that...haha

  • Nicholas Rowe
    Nicholas Rowe Member Posts: 8

    I shouldn't really comment on this thread, as it is about positive viva experiences (🤣), but my PhD story can be found here: https://www.thephdlab.com/phd-in-finland/ (worth a read).

    My external examiners (UK and Finland) were great, and raised no particular issues. But my viva opponent came equipped with a load of ppt slides ... about themself! No subject knowledge or interest, and the usual formulaic pseudo-academic questions about methods, etc. In the end, I passed with no corrections, a thesis grade of 4/5, and a coursework average of 90%. If conference posters 'float your boat', then this thesis is just for you! https://lauda.ulapland.fi/handle/10024/63741

    I too got a sword on graduation from my PhD, and I have the viva and internal examiners' names lovingly engraved on its tip ...


  • Jayashree Rajagopalan
    Jayashree Rajagopalan Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 262 admin
  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2021

    How was your thesis defense experience? Do you have any memories to share?

    @Jayashree Rajagopalan 😶 Nope.

    (Wry smile with shoulder shrug...) :)

    @Shruti Turner ...loads of good wishes for the defense. We know you'll rock. Rooting for you. 🎊😊

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭

    Interesting to have stories coming in so many shades.

    Looking forward to reading more...there's so much to add to the spectrum ranging from dark black to unicorn pink. 🤣

    Thanks for starting this thread.... @Jayashree Rajagopalan 🙏

    Usually, the PhD and defense are so close to the individual's psyche. Lots of effort, time and work goes into it. And it is very easy to get too close, get stuck in our worlds, think about only our individual experiences or feel we are the only one (lonely in case of a bad experience, which can indeed be life alteringly bad....).

    Sharing a spectrum of experiences can really lighten the soul and open a world of viewpoints. And that's exactly what this thread sets out to accomplish. 😊

  • Jayashree Rajagopalan
    Jayashree Rajagopalan Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 262 admin

    Thanks for sharing that @Nicholas Rowe It was such a fascinating read. It also made me think of the smaller cultural layers that come into play for specific life events. Loved the details you outlined in the post. And facing your opponent at your defense was I am sure quite nerve wracking. But you seem to have defeated everything in your way, thanks to your sword! :-) And it's a nice gesture - engraving names on the sword. Appreciate that your research opened up new discussions and thought into scientific communication. Kudos!

  • Jayashree Rajagopalan
    Jayashree Rajagopalan Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 262 admin

    This sounds like a dream @Suman Mundkur and slightly funny - that you were being tested without your knowledge and were so engrossed in talking about your research that you ended up making a great impression. That's amazing! It's great to hear that you and your supervisor were commended as well. Your passion for your research shines through here. It's really nice to hear such diverse stories.

  • Jayashree Rajagopalan
    Jayashree Rajagopalan Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 262 admin

    Absolutely @Raj sundaram I just started the conversation eager to hear people's experiences of thesis defense. I know not all experiences will be only or fully, or, sometimes remotely, positive. But I feel like listening to more of these. There's of course the loneliness bubble that breaks and the viewpoints that you are exposed to. But there's also the underlying human experience that, for me, unifies everyone. I feel like I want to hear more, from more folks. It's not easy being a researcher, and the thesis defense is probably the biggest day of your life - it's the culmination of everything you have put in, all those sleepless night, all that effort, the heartache, the joys...It means so much more than just a decision about a degree being awarded. And that's what I am really keen on getting everyone to talk about (if they are comfortable with it) or re-live. It's well-deserved and hard earned and needs a special place!

  • Yufita Chinta
    Yufita Chinta Member Posts: 126 ✭✭✭✭

    Hi @Jayashree Rajagopalan, thank you for writing this part: "It's not easy being a researcher, and the thesis defense is probably the biggest day of your life - it's the culmination of everything you have put in, all those sleepless night, all that effort, the heartache, the joys...It means so much more than just a decision about a degree being awarded."

    Yes, indeed. On the day of the defense, I had all the memories during the research and the feelings of being not easy in the research world. But I could positively use those memories and feelings to be my sword, my "showtime baby!" spirit ☺️

    Also, my defense was done in a hybrid way due to the pandemic situation. I thank my official supervisor, who allowed my family to virtually join the defense from Indonesia. To know that they were there is another sword for me.

  • chris leonard
    chris leonard Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 156 admin
    edited June 2021

    @Suman Mundkur - thank you for sharing. That's a really positive experience. Mine was both a positive and negative experience, but sharing as it's important to recognise that - much like giving the speeches as best man at a wedding - everyone is on your side and wants you to succeed.

    My external examiner was proficient in one small aspect of my thesis (photochemistry) and not so much so in the other aspects (materials science, imaging) - so the viva was very much weighted to photochemistry and not so much to the other more substantial parts of the thesis.

    He was asking me - I remember - about photo initiated free radical polymerisation, and I flunked answers, or gave fairly basic responses. I could see he was underwhelmed. But my supervisors brought it back to other subjects and I was confident on those, but the external examiner had little to say.

    At the end, they asked me to leave the room and I waited in the library for what felt like 20 minutes. I was convinced I'd failed. But then I thought, I don't know anyone who has failed at this point. Maybe I'm being silly.

    After 20 minutes they called me back in to go over where I had not got things right. They said if I go away and make minor corrections to the thesis, they will recommend I graduate later that month.

    Such a relief - but such a roller coaster of emotion. Only equalled by when I passed my driving test :-). I'm sure I was a borderline case and very close to failing, but they found reasons to pass me.

  • Suman Mundkur
    Suman Mundkur Member Posts: 8

    Thank you for sharing your vivid experience Dr. Chris Leonard! You go through so many emotions on that day, that you cannot forget the experience in your life. I liked particularly what you said about, everyone is on your side and wants you to succeed! That is such a reassuring feeling! So positive!