So the 1st of October 2010 is when I had my PhD defence. I was dressed in a nice suit, and went to uni at around 12ish to sit the defence at 2pm. I was a bit tense as most PhD students would be just a little while before the defence starts. I had practised my 10mts ‘overview’ speech and stayed outside the examination hall. My supervisor had taken the external examiner out for lunch, and at around 1.55pm I could see through the windows them walking back towards the building I was in. The Chair came in around the same time and told me that they’d need a bit of time to get the paper work all sorted, and would call me in when they were ready.
At around 2.20pm the Chair asked me to come into the room, introduced everyone and explained to me what was going to happen. There were five people in the room altogether – the Chair, external examiner, HoD nominee (aka. internal examiner), my supervisor and myself. The Chair then asked me to give an overview of my work, and I spoke quite confidently and then sat down before the questioning/grilling began. The external examiner started the questioning, followed by the internal. The questions were directly related to what I had done – the external asked more of abstract type questions whereas the internal asked implementation related details, like how and why type questions. Overall I did ok I thought, although with a couple of questions I guess I could have certainly done better. Anyway, once the questioning finished, I was asked to go outside so that they could discuss the outcome. I didn’t think I was going to fail ‘cos I had read so many PhD defense related forums before, and my case wasn’t a weak-student+weak-defense combination which I read somewhere was pretty much the only combination that could fail, unless there were all sorts of issues in the student-supervisor relationship. However, I felt even a pass with minor changes could be fairly major depending on how the defence went.
After about 10mts the Chair came and asked me to come in and said that they were happy with my oral examination and that they were going to recommend a pass with minor corrections. phew..hearing that was definitely a relief! Turns out that my external examiner reports were quite strong with one recommending a direct pass (a rare occurance I’m told!) with the other recommending a pass with minor corrections, but had also recommended my thesis to be put up for an award since “compared to multiple international theses [he had] reviewed in top USA and European universties, [he thought] the thesis merits consideration for an award, given the careful analysis and attention to multiple details, both in the development of the underlying framework and its meticulous assessment” 🙂 As a result, the final changes I had to make were fairly minor, with the bulk of work involving adding 5 or so new references to the ‘related work’ chapter. Overall, it was a great result and I’m truly thankful to my supervisor for all his guidance and support, as well as quick turn around times with journal manuscripts. I certainly couldn’t have ended up with 16 or so publications in three years without his support!
By the way, here‘s a bunch of excerpts and questions I found useful during my defence preparation.