27 and a PhD

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Tackling two questions – Search Terms – short answers

Welcome to my blog!

Hello there, awesome reader. My name is Dr. 27. I'm older than that now, but I'm staying faithful to the origins of the blog.

This blog started 2 months before completing my PhD in a pretty southern university back in 2009. It was a way to practice my writing and take a break from all things thesis. My PhD is in a branch of structural biology where I studied some rather impressive stuff.

After completing the degree, I packed my life of 6 years in 3 days and moved to Canada to do a postdoc in a completely different field. Two years later, and after attending a lot of seminars, workshops and doing some much-needed soul-searching, I ended up getting out and looking for an alternative path to academia and industry.

The blog chronicles my mishaps, ideas, musings and tips on entering, staying and finishing grad school. It also talks about some (or a lot) of personal stuff. For a while, the blog became a place to talk about the frustrations of not knowing what to do after PhD. I wanted to explore alternatives to the traditional paths of research (academia, industry and goverment) whilst going back to my field of training (if at all possible). Eventually a job materialized. Follow my quest as I navigate the waters of being a staff scientist at a core facility.

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Since I get a good deal of interesting search terms when I check my blog stats, I’ve started seeing them as inquiries. I’ve also decided to start answering some of these in short form, instead of having a long, long post. Also, I’m going to try to answer some of these questions, inquiries, etc more often (my usual answering speed is about a week to 2 weeks in length). So today, I’m going to tackle two inquiries A) what to wear to your PhD defense and B) Can you be my your PhD thesis defense?

A) What to wear. From experience, wear something nice, but comfy. Chances are you’ll be standing for a long, long time, so better be safe than sorry. I decided to wear a dress (which was so very unusual for me). My defense was in the summer, so wearing a dress was a nice option. I wore 2-inch heeled sandals, which by the end of the day were killing my feet. Since more than likely you’ll have loved ones there (or really good friends), maybe you could get some flats and have them hold ’em for after the defense, or just plain and simple wear them to begin with (if you’re a girl). You don’t have to wear an evening gown, but something nice, comfortable and serious will help you look and feel the part. If you’re a guy, wear IRONED clothes, or if you don’t have time to go to the dry-cleaners, please go get something that doesn’t need ironing (I know with all the stress it is one more thing to take into account, but it’s one of the most important days of your life and you want to look and feel like a winner). Wear a tie if you’re so inclined (but not required) and wear comfy shoes. If you’re a girl, try to keep it simple, sober and elegant (not prom-ish, not too much bling or things that like straight out of jersey shore). Wear something that will make you feel comfy yet professional. Get a haircut or a trim and look clean and presentable, a little make up would enhance your look too. Trust me, it will help you feel better in your skin while getting drilled by thesis committee. After (or before if you have time, sanity and money) go get a little pampered, like a massage or facial.

B) Can you be in my PhD thesis defense? Well, I don’t know the intention behind this question. If it’s about whether I (Dr. 28 and a PhD) be in your thesis committee the (sad) answer is that no, I can’t be. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’m not a PI and as far as I know postdocs aren’t allowed in thesis committees. I can however help if I’m in your geographical area, so leave a message or send an email to stitchick at gmail dot com (change the at for @ and dot for . as I don’t want to encourage spammers). But on to the real answer. I think what the reader is asking is how can you ask a PI or prof to be in your committee. Simple, send and email or visit the lab. Usually 3-5 members are needed per thesis committee and there might be rules as to the affiliations of those PI’s (say, 75-to 90% of the have to be from your department while the rest can be from outside, or they might have specific roles within the department or program and you need to have a certain number of them there). PI’s are very busy people, they serve in many committees, are almost always mentoring others, etc, but if asked nicely and politely you’ll more than likely get a positive answer. Get input from your PI or labmates on who they prefer to have and why. In my case I almost copied a previous grad student’s committee when it was my time to assemble my thesis committee, as I knew they were familiar with the topic and were excited about it (I kind of wanted to keep some continuity). So be polite, be ready to get some no’s or maybe’s and remember to be thankful and acknowledge their help when they accept (and if the don’t be courteous too). This reminds me, I still want to mail some thank yous for my thesis committee and their help and input through the years.

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