The Day After…
Yesterday was a memorable day for more reasons than the outbreak of Higgs-teria I blogged about. The main event was in fact the PhD examination of my student Jo Short. Being the supervisor, I didn’t actually attend the examination in person but did get to have lunch with the Chair and other examiners, including external examiner Andrew Jaffe from Imperial College, who blogs at Leaves on the Line.
After lunch the Examiners, Chair and candidate disappeared into the special room we keep for such occasions (complete with thumbscrews, etc) and I went back to my office to wait it out while Jo was grilled. I always feel a bit protective towards my PhD students, and a viva voce examination always brings back painful memories of the similar ordeal I went through twenty-odd years ago. Although I had every confidence in Jo, I was a bit nervous sitting in my office wondering how it was going. However, this is something a PhD candidate has to go through on their own, a sort of rite of passage during which the supervisor has to stand aside and let them stand up for their own work.
About 90 minutes after the viva started I remembered that I had to pick up some medication from a chemist, so braved the inclement weather to do that. Yesterday, incidentally, threw an extraordinary range of weather at us: hail, thunder, gales and dark apocalyptic clouds. When I returned the examination was already over; Jo passed with minimal corrections to be made. My nerves clearly weren’t justified. Congratulations Dr Short!
Caught on the hop by the fact that the viva finished in just over 2 hours, I then had to mobilize the obligatory champagne which was chilling in a fridge belonging to the Astronomy Instrumentation Group. Worse, a team of PhD students which had been dispatched to buy celebratory gifts hadn’t returned with the goodies by the time we opened the bubbly. Nevertheless, an appropriate celebration was eventually held in the department, followed – so I’m told – by an evening of revelry in the town. I didn’t go to the latter, as I’m far too old for that sort of thing.
By the way, Jo’s thesis is partly about the analysis of the pattern of temperature variations in the cosmic microwave background and partly about modelling galaxy clustering revealed by the Herschel Space Observatory and she’s staying on at Cardiff on a research fellowship.
P.S. Our genial external was last seen getting into a taxi to get to the station and thence back to London. I assume he got home safely…
P.P.S. For the sake of complete disclosure I should admit that I wrote this blog post while chairing another viva…Follow @telescoper