PhD defense

by Lilia Efimova on August 27, 2009

IYOUITThis is something I wanted to blog for a while, but – hey – it’s better late than never :)

I did my PhD in Utrecht University, which is old (founded in 1636) and quite traditional. The defense is in a room full of old portraits, professors wear togas and no technology (photo, video, etc) is allowed without special permission. The defense is ruled by the Beadle (ceremonymeister), the defendant is accompanied by two paranimfs (assistants, who play similar roles as best friends at a wedding :), all dressed up pretty formal as well.

'The silent audience' by Ton ZijlstraIn the Netherlands by the time you go to the defense the PhD work is practically done: the main critical moments happen a few months before it, when the dissertation is first approved by the supervisors and then read by the PhD committee members, who decide if it’s good enough to let you go to the defense. Failing a defense is almost unheard of, but your performance still matters for your reputation and the future in academia.

From a personal perspective it was a fun and a bit scary day. While lots of people made jokes about the schedule in the building that said very definitively that  “Promotion L. Efimova M. Sc.” would be followed by the “Reception Dr. Efimova”, the hour between those two felt as an extremely long one.

So, there I was, facing a group of distinguished academics (and I hope to be forgiven for excluding all the formal titles below :) that was chaired by Willem Koops, the dean of the Social Sciences faculty, and included my supervisors Robert-Jan Simons, Robert de Hoog and Edward Faber, members of the examination committee  Betty Collis, Mariëtte de Haan, Albert Pilot Jan Schmidt, and Jan Vermunt, Jan Schmidt, as well as Jonathan Grudin who couldn’t come, but was virtually present by sending his questions.

I had 45 minutes for the defense itself. Most of the questions were not about the dissertation itself, but various implications of the work. That made it challenging, since I had to come up with some of the answers on the fly. It felt like an interesting conversation, however too formal, stressful and way too short to enjoy it fully. I was also stupid enough not to have a watch in front of me, so I didn’t have a good idea how the time went and took a bit too short with the first couple of questions. I am still thinking of some of the questions and planning to write in more detail on that in the weblog.

Robert Bestowing Doctorate by Ton ZijlstraThen the committee left (through the secret door that I didn’t even know was there) to discuss their opinions of the defense before coming back to award the degree. As with other PhD defenses I went to, I found those few minutes very special – once the committee disappears the room turns very informal, with making photos, greetings and chatter, and all that is covered with a scent of anticipation… And then there were my doctor diploma and all kinds of nice words, including Robert-Jan’s qualification of me as “a curious, inspiring, persistent doubter” :)

IMG_7127 by Robert SlagterAnd then we all moved to the reception. Alexander, who wasn’t allowed at the defense and was running outside with his grandfather, jumped into my arms and stayed there through most of the congratulations claiming his share of attention for all the hard times he had while I was working on the dissertation… Being done with the PhD felt nice, but it was even nicer to be able to share the joy of it with others – family, friends and extended professional network.

Thank you, everyone, for making it special!

***

If you are curious for more you can see photos of the defense by Ton, Robert and all kinds of other people. While the recording of the defense wasn’t allowed, they didn’t say anything about twittering it, so thanks to @gervis and @ruudstweets I have a real-time transcript :)

4:11 @gervis Senate Hall Utrecht University 8 minutes before the ceremony with Lilia’s Defense in the spotlights – http://mobypicture.com/?y2lgf2
4:11 @ruudstweets at @mathemagenic’s phd defense; tension is rising ;-)
4:13 @ruudstweets we’re not allowed to take pictures; never mind, all around me they are twittering…
4:20 @ruudstweets Q1: why didn’t you study the non bloggers among knowledge workers?
4:20 @gervis Prof. Betty Collins of t U of Twente asks t promovendus why many knowledge workers are not passionate bloggers?
4:23 @ruudstweets Q2: blogging as knowledge creation; how do you pass the scientific test?
4:23 @gervis Prof. Wouters of Erasmus focusses on blogging as knowledge creation. How scientific can a blogging activity be?
4:28 @gervis Wouters: Want a conventional PhD or do you want a blogging approach? Blogging allows nw ways of doing action research
4:30 @gervis Professor de Haan praises the candidate for the original way of developing this thesis. Blogging is also new learning
4:31 @ruudstweets Q3: what are the disadvantages of “learning online”?
4:33 @gervis Lilia reminds that the blogging approach and learning online cq knowledge creation also has its limitations for research.
4:35 @ruudstweets Q3a: what kind of knowledge and skills are needed?
4:38 @gervis Lilia mentions the competence of being able to distinguish the quality in the flood of information the knowledge landscap
4:39 @ruudstweets Q4: what makes weblogs special among web 2.0 tools for knowledge creation?
4:43 @gervis The difference between weblogs and other publation tools like twitter is functionality and space. Blogs are work in progress
4:46 @ruudstweets Q5: could weblogs hinder routine knowledge management as in, e.g., standard de-personalized memo’s?
4:49 @ruudstweets Q5a: would a standardized weblog format be advisable?
4:51 @gervis Another opponent questions if blogging hinders trad. ways of knowledge management? They shouldnt be t only tool
4:55 @ruudstweets Q6: how did you use your evaluation criteria (authenticity, trustworthiness, impact) in your research?
4:55 @gervis 3 criteria are mentioned f evaluating effectiveness of a blogging activity. 1 is authenticity. Another is trustwothiness
5:01 @ruudstweets Q8: hora est!
5:05 @gervis Lilia stresses cc evaluation on the connection between quality connection criteria – http://mobypicture.com/?s9iio2
5:08 @ruudstweets hmm, only seven minutes for deliberation…
5:09 @gervis http://mobypicture.com/?tr3a90
5:09 @ruudstweets Lilia Efimova, Ph.D. !!!
5:11 @gervis Doctor Lilia Efimova was promoted on Passion at Work – http://mobypicture.com/?bzyuu
5:14 @gervis Lilia’s supervisor tells about his supervising experience w this passionate blogger and he praises her f… – http://mobypicture.com/?t66sve
5:14 @ruudstweets chair compliments her with methodology section; sets the example for future qualitative researchers…
5:17 @gervis As a scientist Lilia is characterized by her supervisor as ‘a curious inspiring consistent doubter’ a gr… – http://mobypicture.com/?iwwjji
5:38 @gervis Congratulations Doctor Lilia with this milestone and great accomplishment!!!! – http://mobypicture.com/?l5g21a
5:40 @gervis The after party – http://mobypicture.com/?2jqsqe
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{ 8 trackbacks }

cristinacost (Cristina Costa)
August 27, 2009 at 3:12
ecomunidades (comunidades)
August 27, 2009 at 4:38
gervis (Gerrit Visser)
August 28, 2009 at 12:45
Smart Mobs » Blog Archive » Tweet report of passionate PhD defense on blogging practices
August 28, 2009 at 1:39
PhD dissertation on the practice of blogging « A Hermit on the Cloud
September 9, 2009 at 8:44
gautamghosh (Gautam Ghosh)
September 17, 2009 at 9:50
BijayRungta (Bijay Rungta)
September 17, 2009 at 11:46
In Full Flow | Blending work and life – stories of a wired tribe
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