Friday, December 12, 2008


It was one year ago today (Dec 13) that I defended my master's thesis.  I was just thinking about it today and wanted to relay a few memories.

I recall the week before the defense I would write a list of things I was shaky on and go study them.  This is a really tough task because if I was still shaky on it at this point it was probably because I had no clue where to start.  Its also tough because you have to be honest with yourself about what you just don't get.  

I also spent my time reading the thesis and looking for outrageous claims that I might have to defend.  this was a bad idea for a few reasons.  First, I wrote the thing and edited it.  I knew the whole thing pretty well and I defused most of my outrageous claims.  Second, reading my thesis was the one thing my examiners did not do.  That is not entirely true but they definitely skimmed over all the sticky wickets I found. 

As I was prepping the presentation I kept reminding myself that I actually did all this work and put my time in.  I wrote the thesis.  I know what I am talking about! There is no way they could fail me!  None of the examiners are jerks. They all like my supervisor.  This should be a lay-up.

I get into the examination room and set up the computer.  The first examiner comes in and asks me if I am feeling OK... I say "yeah i guess, just nervous".  She says "Oh cause you look pale".  I think to myself "Its December, I've spent the last month at my computer, I'm pale to begin with, I'm nervous.  Of Course I'm Pale! Are you some sort of a scientist or something?  Your powers of observation are ASTOUNDING!"  I say: "Oh, I feel fine. I'm sure its nothing. Thank You"

I continue to tell myself that I am fine.  They can't fail me.  I start the presentation.  no confused looks from the audience. No feverish writing...everything is going smoothly.  I think I got at least one laugh.  I finish the presentation.

The Questions Start.

They come out of left field.  If I spent 1 year preparing for this defense I would have never thought to research for these questions...I do alright.  I answer one question by telling the examiner that "normally i would try to B.S. my way through an answer but I will just tell you that I have no clue"

The defense is over...they ask me to leave so they can discuss my presentation and vote to pass or fail.  I step out the door and the only thing I can think is HOLY (expletive deleted) They Could Fail ME!

They passed me...If I had one tip for future defenders; skip the thesis re-read and work on your tan!


  1. you know, i've completely forgot about the whole ordeal until just now. it's a good thing i have a beer open. i remember them being sticklers on typos and that's about it. don't know why i stuck with it, as i'm goign through it again for comps right now.

  2. Hey Mike,

    This was the perfect post for me to read right now! My defense is coming up sometime soon... Have any writing tips by any chance? I'm trying to finish up my own thesis at the moment but it's taking a lot longer than I thought and of course I'm second guessing EVERYTHING I write now. Starting full time work next Thursday too... not gonna be easy hahaha Any advice would be much appreciated ;)

    - Jenn