12 May 2012

Wearing pajama bottoms to a thesis defense

The last part of March and all of April was dedicated to a high intensity freakout over finishing my MS thesis and giving my defense. Graphene-silicon interfaces, hybrid devices...totally fascinating and life consuming stuff. Interestingly, this was all done remotely. Research and measurements were finished before I moved halfway across the country to my new university, but my masters adviser and I spent some significant time since then determining what all those measurements meant.

Regular phone calls were critical to keep everyone on track. Once a week, all the questions and concerns, updated graphs and edits were given a thorough run down. Logistics were sorted out - who would be on the committee? Do I need to schedule a room? Can everyone work with soft copies of the thesis or should I mail drafts back east? I think this was a key piece to keeping on schedule and still defending by the semester deadline.

Thesis drafts and edits were kept in Dropbox. My adviser pointed out that it provided a nice, passive-aggressive way of reminding him to check my updates since a little notification would show whenever I saved my edits or a new version.

The thesis itself was conducted via Skype. There were minor hitches (video freeze, anyone?) but the call clarity was solid and there was a live presentation of the slides at both ends. Some practice runs of the presentation involved as much debate of technical issues as they did the material of my presentation. I'm not sure if this took away from anything, but it made me very aware of the experience for all parties.

Most importantly, I passed. With all the typing and talking behind me, I think this might make a smashing article for one of the IEEE journals. Especially since all this free time has just opened up in my schedule.

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