The Horrors of Final Oral Defense

PS: This is a very memory recording, personal journal type of post and you may not really get anything out of it, unless you're genuinely interested in the fine details of my mundane life. 

After about 7 hours of sleep in past 48 hours, the Judgement day finally came. The table was set with strawberries, donuts, cupcakes, cookies and juice. The audience and the three professors sat there, eating, relaxing, their eyes on me and their minds on food. And I stood alone, in the corner, holding the laser pointer like a sword, with a pack of 50 colorful powerpoint slides as my arrows, defending my past two years worth of masters research.

The presentation went for an hour. Nevertheless, we moved on, the public part of the defense was over, and as people left, the grilling private session with the 3 professors began. I could answer most of the stuff but at one point I was sort of tired and pissed, and thus did a major screw up.

Prof. X is my major prof., Prof 1 and Prof 2 are the other two.

Prof. 1: I am a bit disappointed Tanya, you presented everything fine but you didn't explain any basic concept of how your results have solved the problem you presented early on. I mean I have no clue what is that, what is this, and why getting that is helping you solve this problem. 

Me: I didn't cover that because I covered that in detail in my last POS meeting, so I assumed everyone would know the basics. 

This was perhaps quite arrogant of me which I didn't realize then. The moment I said the damned word "assume" he raised his eyebrow in a manner that showed his ego was deeply hurt. He stared at me in disbelief, and perhaps slight contempt, for a long 30 seconds.

Prof. 1: That was 6 months ago, I had 8 proposals, 17 presentations in the meantime. I can't keep track of all the students I interact with. 

I kept silent after that, and then he gave me a real hard time. There is a major lacking in my research and that's something I fought over with Prof. X 6 months ago, warning him again and again that people will argue why we didn't fulfill that gap in our research. But Prof. X just doesn't have a single, freaking dollar to fulfill that gap. He even suggested me, back then, to use my own salary or fellowship to fulfill the gap by paying myself for all the costly experiments but that is just unbelievable. So the ego-hurt Prof. 1 stuck on to that precise gap, and tortured me why it wasn't even considered. Anyway, I didn't reveal the real truth on our tight financial budget to the committee, and din't say anything about the stinginess of my professor.  And Prof. X took care of them, telling we can't do it, because we didn't have enough time and money (the money word he said quite softly)

After an hour of grilling, they sent me out, to discuss the final decision of the committee among themselves (Pass vs Fail). And even though most defenses usually get Pass, and I was sure I will pass, but those 10 minutes of wait outside the room I felt I was gonna be failed, especially when those 10 minutes felt like an eternity. And I could her loud voices of my Prof. X, probably defending my case to the other two.

Finally, Prof. X opened the door, greeting me in with a smile, saying "Congratulations!". And all three of them shook my hand, congratulating me, with that ego-hurt Prof. 1 saying, "So when are you joining that other university? August?"

"um-no, in June."

"Oh-uh, so fast, well, good luck."

And then I left the room, and the building with a yellow form, tightly clutched in my sweaty fist, that had their signatures on the section "Pass", and I didn't feel as happy as anyone would after their oral exam, due to the unfortunate events involving the Indian bitch and this ego-hurt prof 1. But as I pour this all out, I feel relieved. That's the power of writing because I can vent all I have inside. On the other hand, this lame, average student who sucked at studies since childhood, has finally learned something and feels empowered.

And now I'm done. I'm through. I'm free.                                              

I leave United States of America behind, very soon, for good.

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8 comments:

Vipul said...

Hi Tanya, It's being nice to stopping by here. I like your post which is in fact your true experience of Oral Defense.
Congratulations for completing it. And all the best for your further studies (PhD ?? ) .

RAHUL MIGLANI said...

best of luck !!

Tanya said...

Thanks Rahul!

Thanks Vipul, (yes I'm going for a phd)

umashankar said...

Crap happens! Hope to read more and more from you.

Bhavana said...

lol:) I have been through a Ph.d. defense--a very interesting one...I can relate to this post too!

Neeraj Kumar said...

Congratzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!!!!

Arkantos said...

That was quite a defense eh? But it must be a good experience to defend your research. I don't know if I'll ever get to do that in life :P. Anyway, congratulations Tanya! You are part of an elite group of people who have successfully survived the ordeal of grad school. But you aren't finished are you? :P

Tanya said...

Thanks Uma, Bhavana, and Neeraj!

Arkantos, yes, not finished yet, there's more to follow :|

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