At last, Dr Naish
At 9:30 AM on Thursday 1st June I sat down in an office with two senior academics (Drs Eric Buffetaut and David Loydell), and together we were to remain there for the next few hours. It was the day of my Ph.D. viva. So here’s what happens. You dress smartly (as if attending an interview, which you sort of are) and prepare to be subjected to a highly detailed discussion, and/or series of questions, about the content of your thesis. You could be asked about the most irrelevant, obscure details, or you could be asked for your thoughts on the entire area that you’ve specialized in. Your choice of language or application of grammar might be scrutinized.
During the weeks prior to the viva I had not looked once at any of my thesis chapters. Partly because I didn’t want to, but mostly because I’d been too busy catching up on other stuff. I caught up on a lot of editing work and also tinkered with in-progress manuscripts on Brazilian theropods and assorted other stuff. Plus I did a lot of reading, on rabbits, oystercatchers, agamas, docodonts and monkeys (blogs of past, present and future). I therefore became concerned that I might have forgotten most of the stuff in the thesis, and I went into the viva feeling horribly under-prepared.
But it seems that when you spend six years working on the same project, monographing the osteology of one species and drawing all of its bones in multiple views, it becomes cerebrally ingrained to such a degree that you don’t need to revise. You know it. So I didn’t have anything to worry about: the viva went well, and dealing with the questions and issues my examiners raised wasn’t a problem. Sure, I’d made mistakes, oversights and lapses, but there weren’t any gaping holes in my logic. And so it was that some time around 11:30 I was congratulated. From then on I was Dr Naish.
In essence it was a pleasant, enjoyable discussion. We spoke about the identification of Calamosaurus, the Majungasaurus vs Majungatholus issue, the anatomy of theropod ankles, the biogeography of European Cretaceous dinosaurs, the function of tall neural spines, the arctometatarsalian pes, the confused taxonomy of Becklespinax, and much more. If you really know your subject, and are enthusiastic and interested in it, then I’d say you have nothing to worry about (err, I hope that didn’t sound arrogant).
Anyway. What do you do after successfully being awarded a Ph.D.? Answer: you go down the pub. And thanks to my friends and colleagues I drank a lot. And then some more. Then I went back to the department and sent some emails. Then I met some more friends and went back to the pub. Then I went home. Then I went out to the pub again. It was great. Like an idiot I forgot to take my camera, so I didn’t get any congratulatory photos of me shaking hands with my examiners dammit. The best I could do was get a photo of me shaking hands with my ex-supervisor, Dave Martill. That green thing he's holding is a life-sized model of a tapejarid pterosaur skeleton.
What’s next? I have a month to make the required changes to the thesis (Naish 2006*), and I have to deal with various administrative hurdles in order to properly graduate during July. And then I have to get a job.
* The first time it's been cited.
So, sorry for not producing a zoology-oriented post, but I think it’s obvious that completing my Ph.D. has been a pretty important part of my life lately, and so much so that I thought I should post about it. Back to the tetrapods soon. I might try and finish the late-surviving synapsids thread (see part I here and part II here), but there is also stuff planned on agamas and monkeys. I have, in part, gotten round the problem I was having uploading images, so part III of the ‘beautifully interesting’ birds post now has the pictures I was planning to include. I haven’t been able to add more images to the Marwell Zoo post unfortunately.
Oh yeah, I suppose I'd better post about Eotyrannus at some stage.
And thanks to everyone who's sent their best wishes.
Refs - -
Naish, D. 2006. The osteology and affinities of Eotyrannus lengi and other Lower Cretaceous theropod dinosaurs from England. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Portsmouth.