I passed my dissertation defense unconditionally. No biggie. As a refresher, a dissertation defense is when a group of professors asks tough questions of a student about their research. It’s the last test before getting a PhD.
I had a practice presentation scheduled for the day before, and it was suggested that I should practice the first four slides 10 more times. This would permit me to be much smoother in delivering these first slides and put my committee at at ease. The repetition didn’t turn out to be as unpleasant as I thought it would be, and I think it was very helpful.
Also shortly before the dissertation, my grandmother sent me a card with her phone number on it. I called her and she wished me good luck. My friend’s mother Emilie sent me a metal coin with an angel on it for good luck. My mother saw a heron fly by just as I was starting to talk, which she interpreted as good luck. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened without all this good luck!
Unlike the written qualifier, my dissertation defense was not a softball. I was definitely asked tough questions. My advisors took aim at the heart of my dissertation. It turns out that as dissertation questions go, there are an effectively infinite number of variants of the dreaded “who cares.” Fortunately I was prepared for these questions. Even questions that felt a little strange or unfair, or times that my initial answer was rebuffed without explanation of what they didn’t like about it, I simply had to scramble for a different answer, which I somehow always found just as I needed it.
My professor emailed me afterwards to tell me how thrilled he was with my performance. I have heard stories of students reduced to blubbering incoherence under fire in their dissertation defenses, so I think for once I’m going to try to accept and enjoy this success. I shouldn’t get too cocky, though, because in the future I won’t always have triple good luck.