The Boardroom

That important thing I was talking about before? It was my PhD viva, and it happened last Friday. Remember, remember, the fifth of November, indeed. It’s possibile that given time I’ll look back upon it as a positive experience (as many others do), but right now I’m still reeling a little. The closest thing I can compare it to is a really intense job interview. A job interview which lasted four and a half hours. One which is comparable in intensity to… say… one of the boardroom sessions at the end of each episode of The Apprentice. Okay, it’s possible that I’m overstating things a little here, but you weren’t there, man!

Know this, though: It was very difficult and it lasted a long time… which felt a lot longer than it actually was. The viva is also sometimes referred to as “defending your thesis” and that is a very apt term, because that’s definitely what it felt like. It’s not just your thesis which is in the dock, though, you’re in there with it. Not only do you have to be able to defend any criticism which can be leveled at your work, you also have to be able to show that you understand it completely. When you get a PhD in particular subject, what this essentially means that you are (at that moment) the world’s expert in your particular specialisation. You should expect to have to prove that.

So, if you’re reading this wondering “should I do a PhD?” you should know that it is not my intention to scare you. I only wish to prepare you. A PhD may or may not be the right thing for you. You might be better suited to any number of other things, but you have to figure that out for yourself. You do need to be able to devote yourself to a single, extremely narrow, subject for at least three years. You also need to be prepared to write a whopping great document at the end of it (mine is 338 pages) and then be ready for both it, and yourself, to be placed under the microscope. It can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be utterly soul destroying. Sometimes in the space of a single day.

After all that, you might be wondering how I actually did. In short: frustratingly. First the good news: I successfully defended my thesis. I passed. This takes a large weight of my shoulders. The bad news, though, is that I have to do “significant corrections.” This puts another, albeit smaller, weight straight back on. Based on the final assessment, I’m given to understand that the majority of my thesis is very good. Heart warming adjectives such as “exciting,” “heroic in scope” and even “ingenious” were used. Unfortunately, it seems that I need to add a few clarifications and citations, and my results chapter doesn’t live up to the standard set by the rest of my thesis. This was a worry I had, and it is good to get some solid feedback on it, even if it does mean more work. As result, I need to rewrite some of it, add some statistic tests and do some further analysis of my data. I also have an embarrassing number of typographical errors to fix.

In summary: It’s good to know that the light isn’t a train, even if I am still in the tunnel. I’m not calling myself “Dr. Nick” just yet. By God there’ll be a party when I do, though.

So now you know. That’s what’s been taking up my time as of late. I’ll get back to Clockwork Aphid just as soon as I can.

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