19 February, 2006

Just call me Dr. Chris....

Well, I passed my viva with minor corrections, which is about the best outcome that you can hope for in these things: the examiners had no real problems with the science in my thesis, so all I need to do is tweak some figures, a few sentences here and there, and correct some typos. I then resubmit this new version and, after approval by my examiners and rubber-stamping by the University Senate, I will officially hold a PhD.

The examination itself was fine, on the whole. Because that was his area of expertise, and because I've proposed some...interesting...reinterpretations of New Zealand geology, the external examiner left the tough questions for the tectonics stuff - questions which I had ready answers to six months ago but had migrated to some of the deeper recesses of my memory in the interim, requiring me to stall and sound intelligent until they found their way back into the light. The most nerve-wracking bit was when I got sent out of the room for 5 minutes at the end, before they called me back in to give their decision. I'd held it together up until that point, but as the adrenalin started to wear off I started to feel a little bit shaky.

Oddly, although it is obviously a relief that I passed, my pleasure is surprisingly muted. Of course, I'm happy that the examiners thought my work was sound: but I think that a lot of me feels that the real test is yet to come. Will my published papers (and the ones to come) be noticed? Will the thinking of other scientists in the field be influenced at all by my ideas? I think that it is only when I see these things that I will consider my PhD to have been a success. Take your pick as to whether that attitude is either ludicrously perfectionist, or annoyingly egotistical.