Sunday, July 25, 2010


I'm told that this is how most students spend the two weeks or so before their PhD dissertation defense: They have lots of long discussions with their advisor about what to present, and what to expect, and what they should do to prepare. They go through multiple versions of their slide presentation, in consultation with their advisor. They give a practice talk or two, then redo their slides again based on the feedback. They talk some more with their advisor. Then they lock themselves in their office and practice practice practice giving the talk, until they know it backwards and forwards. Then they talk to their advisor some more, and tweak their slides some more, and practice some more. Two weeks of total focus and preparation.

My dissertation defense is this week (!). Here is how I have spent the last two weeks or so:
I emailed an early version of my slides to AdvisorA for feedback, along with a long list of questions. AdvisorA has been completely out of touch with me since then, except for two short emails telling me that she hasn't had time to look at my slides. She did, however, inform me that she bought airline tickets to fly into town for my defense, but she bought refundable tickets, because she's still not sure if she's going to be able to make it. As of today, she is 90% or so sure that she will actually not be present in person.

At her request, since she knew that she probably would bail out, she insisted that I schedule my defense in a room equipped with video conferencing. I spent several days trying to find a room on my campus that can do video conferencing, since my department doesn't have one, and most of the departments that do have one won't let people from other departments use them. AdvisorA then told me that I also had to help find her a video conferencing room on her campus, since she didn't have time to schedule it herself. I spent another several days emailing people on that campus to try to book a room for AdvisorA, most of which wanted me to give them my credit card number (yes, my personal credit card number) so that they could charge me several hundred dollars in "use fees" since I'm not affiliated with the campus. My argument that this was for AdvisorA, who is a full professor at the campus, were ignored because I didn't have her department account information, and she never replied to my request for her to send it to me.

The day that all the scheduling finally got squared away, LL woke up in the middle of the night with a fever of 103. Other than the fever and a slight cough, LL was in excellent spirits and simply could not understand why I wouldn't let him go to Natasha's to play with his friends. Predictably, I got sick two days later. (The combination of sick toddler coughing in my face, lack of sleep from holding the sick toddler all night, stress over the defense, and lowered immunity because of the pregnancy, turned out to be waaaaay too many points against me in my hope of avoiding a cold just now.) I spent three days with my own 100 degree fever, completely unable to think straight. I did manage to do one practice talk just before succumbing entirely to the cold, and S took care of LL for much of the weekend so that I could finally get around to revising my slides a bit.

The way things stand right now, I have barely practiced at all, I have had zero feedback from my advisor, and I have an awful cough and sore throat that makes it difficult to get through a full reading of Good Night Moon, much less a three hour dissertation defense.

It's gonna be a fun week. See ya on the flip side.


HereWeGoAJen said...

That woman sucks.

I know you will do great anyway. You can do it! Show that stupid woman that you know what you are doing.

Rebecca said...

Good luck! And I second the comment above, That woman SUCKS!!!

Jen said...

Good luck! And soon you will be done with Advisor A!!!

Rachel said...

Good luck this week! I hope the defense goes superbly, and you get some well-needed time to relax afterwards.

Lisa said...
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Sunny said...

I am getting caught up!! I'm sorry things are so stressful for you right now. I will be thinking of you this week, and I hope all goes well with your defense!! Give 'em hell, or break a leg, or whatever the appropriate encouragement is!