…by Katherine / from Canada / PhD Biomedical Sciences 2015-2018
I’m not sure what has happened to spring in Edinburgh… The daffodils came up and subsequently dried out on the one sunny day we had a week and a half ago, then they shriveled up and died this week with the temperature hovering around 6C in the mornings. George Square is a huge construction site, but at least the grass in the garden is growing.
I had my viva on Friday 13th April. I’m not sure where to start in my description of it. It lasted a full 4 hours! It was not a particularly good experience. The best way to describe it is overwhelming and exhausting. It is all a blur now. As soon as my examiners asked me the first question, I got quite nervous, I wasn’t too nervous before this point. In fairness to me, it was a difficult question (this has since been confirmed by others in my field). Although I felt I had annotated and hi-lighted my thesis to an inch of its life, I don’t know if any of that came in handy. That said, I probably would not have been able to cope with the examiners questions as well as I did (or at least as well as the examiners said I did) had a not spent hours scribbling away. My examiners were incredibly knowledgeable about lots of different things, so their questions and our discussions sometimes veered off topic, but I suppose that is what a viva is. I was asked to give a quick elevator pitch of my work, which most people are asked. That was the easy bit, that part, I had rehearsed. The rest was a wee bit more unpleasant. I was asked lots of questions about the existing literature in the field, we spent at least half of the 4 hours on my introduction. There wasn’t that much emphasis on my actual results, which is the part that I knew best! Luckily when all was said and done, I was greeted in the common room by all my friends and a nice glass of bubbly. I’m glad that it is done and that I never have to do it again.
Note: I don’t want anyone who has an upcoming viva date to feel uneasy now. It is important that I reiterate that this was how I felt. My examiners thought I did brilliantly and congratulated me on being able to answer all their questions well. So I suppose that all the preparation did come in handy.
Luckily, I didn’t really have any corrections. I corrected my typos during my viva prep and I noticed some mistakes in figure legends which I printed out and provided to my examiners at the beginning of my viva. Therefore, I had already completed all of my corrections and was ready to submit my thesis for a final read-through by the examiners on the Monday. I can now print my final hard copy and apply for graduation this summer!
During all of my viva preparations, I was also busy with visa applications. I applied for a visa to work as a postdoc in the UK, in the same lab. That got granted a few days before my viva! My contract is for 2 years and this should allow me to finish up all of the experiments needed to submit my papers. This is particularly important, as I would like to go back to North America where having a few papers out of your PhD allows you to compete with North American grads who did their PhDs in 5+ years and had the time to publish before leaving the lab. My focus is now on publishing my little heart out so I can start to think about applying for fellowships next year. (I know next year already! Science never stops!)
Okay, I said my focus is on publishing, but actually, it is currently in vacation mode as I am off on a tropical post-viva holiday next week. After that, right back to imaging.