PhD Proposal Defense (!!)

Posted by barb on Jun 20, 2003 in Thesis/Grad Life |

The proposal defense was at 2 PM.

All morning I tried not to worry too much about the defense. I did do a bit of cramming, trying to track down a tidbit on column density/flux correlations in Seyfert 2 galaxies and how this might indicate that not all Seyfert 2s are created equal, but I couldn’t find it. Fortunately, I didn’t need it.

At about 10 AM, I decided that it was silly to cram for the defense. I had no idea what the committee might ask, so there was no way to prepare any more than I already had in writing the proposal and presentation. So, I went back to analyzing the Akn 120 data set. It’s odd how playing with data has a calming effect. In some ways, it’s so mechanical that the brain can just go on autopilot. On the other hand, there’s the knowledge that this data set might, just might, hold some cool bit of science that no one has seen before, and if I could just find it. I didn’t get further than fitting the first spectrum to my four models, but I was encouraged that it showed a strong sign of reflection (which none of my other four sources so far had shown). I had been getting worried that I was doing something wrong with the data.

At 11 AM, I received a very encouraging e-mail from my UMD advisor (“Try to have fun this afternoon… you’ve got a good proposal that should sail through, so you can mainly use this as an opportunity to harvest ideas from Cole and Pat.” — Cole and Pat were the committee members, besides Chris and Kim). Unfortunately, I didn’t feel any less nervous after that. Sigh.

I tried to think about lunch at noon, but couldn’t manage to get too excited. I didn’t really want to put anything into my stomach that might just end up coming back out again. I did manage to have a bag of Veggie Chips, and a small cup of applesauce, but even those made me feel barfy.

My plan was to leave for the university at 1 PM. It only takes about 15 minutes to get from Goddard to UMD, but I thought I’d stop by Stef’s office for a bit, and let her boost me up a bit. Just before leaving, I decided to check my favorite blogs. I skimmed through Wil Wheaton ‘s entry for yesterday , and paused as I got to the “Thought for the Day”:

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
–Thoreau

Holy crap! How appropriate was that for me today? I have wanted to go as far as my intellect could could take me in my education for as long as I can remember. I’ve known that I wanted to be Dr. Barb since I entered college over ten years ago. So what if I’ve hit some bumps and slow patches on the way? So what if I took the scenic route for a couple years? So what if I had to take a year-long pit stop to find the strength to pursue my dream again? I’ve made it. I know where I want to go. I know how to get there. And all I have left to get to full candidacy is this silly little proposal defense today. Somehow, the thought that I was finally following where my dreams had led me was more encouraging than anything anyone else could say.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t still nervous. I won’t go into details on the defense itself. Let me just say that it went pretty well. There were a few questions that Chris had to lead me toward the answer to, but overall the committee thought the project was worthwhile. I’m excited to get back to work on it.

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