Archive for graduation ceremony

Thirty Years as a Doctor!

Posted in Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on July 11, 2019 by telescoper

A chance discovery while rummaging around in my filing cabinet reminded me that today is the anniversary of a momentous event. What I found was this:

It’s the programme of the summer Graduation Ceremony in 1989 at which I formally received my DPhil (Doctor of Philosophy). As you will see that was precisely thirty years ago today!

I actually submitted my thesis the previous summer (either at the end of August or start of September 1988) but had to wait a few months for the examination, which I think was in December.  By the time I had done my corrections (mainly typographical errors) the next available date for the degree to be formally conferred was in July 1989 so that’s when I officially got doctored. I was actually still in Brighton at the time, as had started work as a postdoctoral researcher soon after I had submitted my thesis.

Here’s my thesis:

In those days they actually printed the thesis title in the programme, alongside the graduand’s name in the case of DPhil degrees.

It’s normal practice for people to assume the title of Doctor as soon as they have passed the viva voce examination but although I’ve never objected to that,  I’ve always been a bit unsure of the legality. Probably one doesn’t actually have a doctorate until it is conferred (either at a ceremony or in absentia).

Anyway, here is a picture of me (aged 26!)  emerging from the Brighton Centre wearing the old-style Sussex doctoral gown just after I received my DPhil:


Unfortunately the University of Sussex decided a while ago to change the style of its academic dress recently to something a bit more conventional and as far as I know it’s not possible to obtain the old-style gowns any more. They also changed the title DPhil to PhD because it confused potential students, especially those not from the UK.

My first degree came from Cambridge so I had to participate in an even more archaic ceremony for that institution. The whole thing is done in Latin there (or was when I graduated) and involves each graduand holding a finger held out by their College’s Praelector and then kneeling down in front of the presiding dignitary, who is either the Vice-Chancellor ot the Chancellor. I can’t remember which. It’s also worth mentioning that although I did Natural Sciences (specialising in Theoretical Physics), the degree I got was Bachelor of Arts. Other than that, and the fact that the graduands had to walk to the Senate House from their College through the streets of Cambridge,  I don’t remember much about the actual ceremony.

I was very nervous for that first graduation. The reason was that my parents had divorced some years before and my Mum had re-married. My Dad wouldn’t speak to her or her second husband. Immediately after the ceremony there was a garden party at my college, Magdalene, at which the two parts of my family occupied positions at opposite corners of the lawn and I scuttled between them trying to keep everyone happy. It was like that for the rest of the day and I have to say it was very stressful. A few years later I got my doctorate from the University of Sussex, at the Brighton Centre on the seafront. It was pretty much the same deal again with the warring family factions, but I enjoyed the whole day a lot more that time. And I got to wear the funny gown.

Lectured Out

Posted in Biographical, Education with tags , , , , , on July 10, 2013 by telescoper

Just time for a quick post today because I’m quite knackered. Both my lectures for the Summer School I’m attending were this morning, and each was 90 minutes long – though there was a 30 minute coffee break between the two. The students therefore had to out up with me droning on most of the morning so were probably sick of the sight of me by lunchtime although they were quite polite about it. MOst of the participants went off on an excursion after lunch, but I decided to stay behind and take a siesta. I’m definitely too old for hiking in this heat.

The conference organizers told me that ninety minute lectures are apparently quite normal in Germany. I’m not sure why. I don’t think students can concentrate for that length of time, and it’s a definite strain on the lecturer too. I find even an hour lecture quite tiring, actually, but that’s more the effect of expending nervous energy walking backwards and forwards trying frantically to tell if anyone is understanding what I’m talking about. I usually enjoy lecturing actually, but it’s definitely stressful at the time. Now that I’m Head of School I won’t get to do as much teaching in the future as I did in the past. I suppose I’ll miss that “contact” with students, but I don’t think their education will suffer at all as a consequence of not being taught by me!

This is graduation week at the University of Sussex; finalists from the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences actually graduate tomorrow. In normal circumstances I would be there to read out the names as the graduands parade across the stage, but I committed to attend this Summer School long before I’d even been appointed to my job as Head of MPS so felt I shouldn’t leave the organizers in the lurch. The Deputy Head of School will therefore do the honours at tomorrow’s ceremony. I haven’t been there long enough to get to know the graduating class very well, so it’s quite fitting that he’s looking after them on the big day. In other words, I don’t think I’ll be missed. I also see that final year students from the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University will be graduating next Monday (15th July). I’ve known some of them for almost four years so feel a bit sad that I left before they finished, but I’m sure I won’t be missed on that occasion either. I bet most of them have already forgotten I was ever there!

Anyway, on the off chance that any graduating students from either Sussex or Cardiff happen to read this, I hope you enjoy the graduation ceremony and associated celebrations and wish you well as you embark on the next stage of life’s journey.

Class of ’11

Posted in Biographical, Education with tags , , on July 19, 2011 by telescoper

Just a quick note to mark today’s graduation ceremony for students in the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University, which took place at 10 o’clock this morning in St David’s Hall. I took part in the staff procession this year – as I have done on several previous occasions – so was there bright and early, all togged up in academic drag, ready for the kick-off. You can see a replay of the whole thing here so I don’t need to describe it in detail; I’m seated towards the left hand side of the stage so am fortunately out of shot for most of the video.

I admit to having had a bit of a hangover this morning because yesterday evening I attended a posh (black tie) graduation dinner at the invitation of the Vice-Chancellor. The splendid dinner was preceded by a drinks reception that lasted a full hour – at which much champagne was quaffed – and then followed by some lengthy and rather uninspiring speeches, during which I sought solace in the form of port. When proceedings were over, a few of us decanted ourselves into a local bar for a bit more to drink. I only realised how much I must have drunk when Columbo woke me up by jumping on my bed at 5am at which point I felt distinctly sub-optimal.

After the graduation ceremony there was a reception for graduates, parents, partners and assorted hangers-on back at the School of Physics & Astronomy followed by the obligatory pictures with the Head of School, Walter Gear, and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Bernard Richardson, including several attempts at the old “mortar-boards-in-the-air” shot…

..of which my attempt with a phone camera came out surprisingly well!

The MPhys students graduating this year are the first such group that I’ve seen go all the way from first year to graduation, as I moved to Cardiff University in 2007.  Graduation is always a bittersweet occasion, with joy  at the students’ success, but also sadness that we have to say goodbye.   Some will be staying to do PhDs and some will remain in Cardiff for a host of other reasons, but there’s a  number of students in this group that I will miss a lot.