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Thesis Defense Live Blog

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6:38 am - Wake up 7 minutes before the alarm clock. First success of the day. Disabled alarms for 7:00 am and 7:15 am. Will not be needing them. 7:02 am - Bike to the University of Alberta. Be sure to note the beautiful green and gold foliage. Arrive at the conference room. 7:30 am - Set up the projector and the Mac Book Air in the conference room. Test the slides. Rehearse the timing. Items needed for the defense include: MacBook Air, 1 black pen, 2 sheets of blank paper, 750 mL water.


8:00 am - Walk to the Tim Hortons. Purchase: 20 assorted Tim Bits, 4 ginger snap cookies, 1 bacon snack wrap and a single espresso. Consume bacon grilled breakfast wrap and espresso.


8:30 am - Start the coffee maker in the  conference room.  Ensure that the room smells like coffee and fresh gingerbread cookies. 9:00 am - Call to order by the thesis committee chair 9:05 am - Excuse myself from the room to allow preliminary discussion. 9:10 am - Commence 20 minute thesis defense presentation. 9:16 am - Consume 250mL of room temperature water 9:30 am - Conclude the 20 minute presentation in 20:38s … Chair makes joke that he turned off his ears for the last 38 s. Quick retort that in that time all I did was thank him. 9:31 am - Questions commence. 4 committee members, 15 minutes of questioning each, from most external to the research to most internal. Questions range from general to specific and easy to hard. Some writing on a CHALK BOARD (noted for posterity’s sake).


10:30 am - Questions conclude almost exactly on time. Motion to recess.10:34 am - Some brief discussion with lab mate during the recess. Consume 200 mL water. 10:43 am - Motion to reconvene. 2nd round of questions, following the same order. 10:46 am - Break to deliberate and discuss. Excused myself from the room. 10:48 am - Inviting to rejoin the meeting. Pass subject to the revisions outlined in the committee’s notes. Feeling of satisfaction, and humble pride emanating from my body. Awkward handshakes ensure. 10:49 am - Motion to adjourn. 10:53 am - Fire alarm goes off in the building. Everyone evacuates. This is a great opportunity to inform everyone of the results of the defense.


11:05 am - Review committee’s notes on revisions, and start to work through the edits. 12 noon - Enjoy lunch with the committee. Talk about success.

Thank you to my committee for asking the hard questions and not letting me off easy. Thank you to my friends and family who volunteered their time and effort in my pursuit of scientific knowledge.

I have performed in front of thousands of people with no idea what I was going to say, and yet, I was more nervous performing to a group of four extremely supportive individuals with a well rehearsed talk I had been preparing for three years.