That’s right, I am now All But Dissertation status- a parlance for what is technically termed PhD Candidacy. Yesterday’s events were tough, but altogether fruitful. Having a committee of top notch researchers that I do (hopefully) makes my research all the more viable and important to the field. These guys are amazing at ‘sticking it to you’ in terms of the feasibility, merit, and philosophical approach to a given research itinerary. Yesterday was no exception. Here’s how it all went down.
Technically, the process started last week with my public proposal defense, an ~hour long seminar I gave on my research. It was great, as many people attended (it’s a departmentally required seminar, but typically only a few show up anyway). I had several people attend from other departments and units on campus (Civil Eng., ISGS, Geol.). That was really awesome. It did a lot for my self esteem. Of course, I had some tough questions at the end too- including a zinger from one of my committee members, which I couldn’t properly answer (d’oh!), fun times (needless to say, I had an answer for him yesterday).
That was part of the process- the rest came in a two and a half hour questioning session (interrogation!) about my approach, philosophical underpinning, state-of-the-science know-how, and hypotheses concerning my proposed research. We debated how (and if) I would overcome the significant challenges in relating my observations to theory, and out of the conversation I have some new ideas and directions to try and field. It was exhausting, and strangely, though I was happy to pass and be onto the next leg of my education, it was anticlimactic. I think it really wore me down in that room- maybe it’s supposed to. It was a strange and immensely challenging experience, that honestly I’m at a loss to put into words.
I’ve noticed this year that the reality of research and science is setting in. Though some of you might have some preconceived notion of the ‘Ivory Tower’ in which wonderful (and perhaps elitist) science just happens- reality indicates it isn’t so. Research is a grueling, knock down, drag out battle- it’s based within a socialized context of your ‘peers’, and it is tremendously hard work. It’s not that I never saw this reality looming, but for the first time I can feel it’s coldness penetrating my veins. I came into this experience with the goal of becoming a great, poignant, and fruitful researcher. I know that I’m capable of doing this now, it is tangible, and within my grasp- the trick is now I feel I must make a choice and evaluate the cost of doing so. It is a transforming and grueling process, but as of now I feel I am ready to take it on- I’ve begun to feel the ache and pain of it’s cost, but I still feel willing to hurt for the cause. So, let’s see where I go from here…