Dr. Trot, PhD

Now that things are a bit more under control than they have been in the last few months (and since I have no friends to hang out with in Princeton yet…but never mind), let me fill you in on the major events of the last handful of weeks.

First off, Dr. trot now has her PhD!!

I defended my thesis, Gene expression control and antimicrobial peptide production by haute couture bacteria, on May 3rd. The PhD defense process for our department is quite similar to the way most programs work (I think…).

First, there is a bunch of time sensitive paperwork to first scavenge from a number of ambiguously described niches of the interweb, then fill out and finally submit to a variety of seemingly unrelated (however, all apparently somehow very important to my graduation) offices.

Next is the fun part, the actual defense. So the defense is technically an exam. However, it’s also really a celebration and feels a lot more like this then like an exam. When you’re ready to defend you’ve already done all of the work, run all of the experiments, crunched all of the data and written all of the papers. You have become the expert on your work and are given a stage from which you can arm-twist your family and friends into being a captive audience for 45 min to hear about what has consumed the previous 4-6 years of your life (and a damn good excuse to dress up in a shirt with crazy frilly sleeves and pointy, paten leather, red heals :-). During the first ~45 min, you present your work to your adviser, your 4-person faculty committee and the family and friends who prefer NOT to receive lumps of coal in their Christmas stockings next Dec. whose schedules are flexible enough to allow them to attend in the middle of the day. Next, the floor is open to questions from anyone. This usually lasts 20-30 min. Last, the public (friends and family) are kicked out politely asked to leave, and you are left with only the committee to continue closed door discussions for another 20-30 min. After this, you are asked to step out of the room so “the committee can deliberate.” This is really just a formality though; I have never heard of anyone even coming close to failing. After a brief wait in the hall, your adviser comes to fetch you and your committee parades out the door, shaking your hand and congratulating you along the way.

At this point you have a very precious piece of paper work that you have to submit (w/in 24 hrs of your exam, or something crazy like this) to the graduate school and then it’s PARTY TIME!!!

One other very important point to note is the defense food. When you defend, you’re responsible for providing snack for your committee and audience members. My family’s arms were double twisted into coming AND bringing food, and a good choice by me (if I do say so myself) because the snacks they brought were amazing! They brought a butt-load of homemade sweet breads (banana +\- chocolate chips AND nuts, blueberry oatmeal, and chocolate) and savory bread (zucchini cheddar), fruit, coffee and water. It was all absolutely wicked good. This is important as both students (whose behaviors towards their colleagues are very food-mailable) and faculty (whose moods/senses of humor/empathy towards lowly graduate students are easily influenced by good/bad grub) hit up the snack table first thing as they walk in the door. So, T, F, & L, thanks so much!!!

Our department tradition is that the new Dr. takes their family and friends hour for happy hour(s) at a local establishment of their choice. You basically hand over your credit card with the lowest interest rate and assign someone to making sure you reunite with it at the end of the evening and make it home (rather than to detox for example) in one piece. (Thank you SmAdj 🙂 No one wants this tradition to end. 🙂 I had my defense party at the Kitty Cat Klub, the same place I celebrated passing my qualifying exam (10 days shy of ) 4 years earlier and woke up without a plastic ID bracelet (thanks again A 🙂

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While I’m in the business of thanking people, I also need to thank Sir. K, one of my very good friends from undergrad who came all the way from Chicago to attend my defense and spend the weekend in Mpls. Thank you!

After nursing the defense weekend (yes, weekend) hangover, the final steps in wrapping up were to make a few final thesis edits, print and bind the friggen expensive thesis, complete exit paper work and pass my work (lab samples, supplies and reagents, files and papers) on to my next of kin. It’s funny how a month seems like so much time to get all of these things done, until you’re living in that one (what the hell was i thinking?!?! month. :-/

And with that, ready or not (hint: one never says this if they are ready) I was off for NJ!!

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