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148

You should talk immediately with the International Office (or equivalent) at your university, as well as any student-coordinated offices at your university. This is by no means the first time that they will have dealt with such a situation. Usually there are workarounds available—for instance, you could be extended on a part-time contract for a few months ...


138

It's fine. As you say, these are open to the public, and it's common for family members, department members, and friends to attend. Since you perhaps are not "firmly" in any of these categories, asking whether it's okay to attend is probably a good idea -- but you've already done this and been given the green light. Enjoy.


127

A short (1-2 paragraph) hand written note on a card or postcard would be an appropriate gift. I have mentored about a dozen undergraduates and I still have the thank you notes they sent to me on my pin board in my office. The notes are nice reminders about the impact I had on the students.


108

For a Ph.D., my favorite explanation is this cartoon by Matt Might. In short: a Ph.D. is a measurable contribution to a sum of human knowledge. To be able to answer this question, all you need is an idea of how to describe what you have discovered, and how it fits into the context of work by others that has come before. This is often not easy to answer, ...


107

I think @cag51's answer ("it's fine") is actually a bit too mild. Please go if you can! Attitudes towards thesis defenses seem to vary a bit from program to program. My PhD program had a pretty strong (but informal) expectation that people would attend defenses, especially if they a) worked together b) worked in the same sub-field, or c) were friendly. That ...


101

The criticism is that you're not up to date on the current state of your own field of specialty, and it is not a light matter. If the "reviewer" is some sort of committee member that can throw a wrench into your exit process, you should address the criticism. The real issue is how to address it. My assumption here is that your defense will be "typical", ...


87

Did you pass your thesis defense? If so, it's all water under the bridge. If it is eating you up inside, you could send a polite note to the senior professor (cc:ing your advisor) thanking them for the question and that now that you've had a chance to re-check things, that you are ever more certain that your method is different from the suggested prior ...


82

Take a deep breath. You will be OK. You're suffering from impostor syndrome. PhD defenses are traditional formalities. Your advisor wouldn't let you schedule yours if they didn't think you ready. The examiners are more likely to want to know what you did than theory from your first year you have forgotten. When you pass your defense come back here and ...


78

First, if a reviewer stated that you should better do something, then you better do something (in most cases, do what the reviewer says, unless you have a very good reason to do something else). Second, the reviewer is right here. You have to keep up to date with the literature, and provide a literature review in your thesis which is up to date at the time ...


66

In addition to Pete Clark's excellent answer, I would like to offer a second piece of advice. When you are feeling nervous or "put on the spot" by questions, an excellent first step is to begin by ensuring that you have understood the question. You can say something like: "If I understand correctly, you are asking [paraphrased question] and then go on ...


64

Actually, the thing that would be most appreciated - and valued - is a hand written letter on nice stationery giving congratulations and thanking him for his help in your own work. Short, professional, sincere. He will save it forever.


53

Open to the public means ... open to the public (presuming they can sit quietly in a room for 2 hours or however long your wife's defense is). Moreover, (edit though I thought I was clear), it's very common in the US for family including parents and spouses to attend PhD defenses. My wife and parents came to my defense (philosophy PhD USA). As did a ...


52

I think it is appropriate to invite an academic to give a lecture on their work at any point, provided the invitation is politely conveyed. Part of politely conveying an invitation is making the invitee feel comfortable declining it. I can think of certain situations in which it is arguable that without further personal knowledge of the invitee, the ...


49

Trying to prepare for any academic examination via stock phrases which are not related to the content of the subject is a very poor idea. You are never expected to know everything about your subject or be able to answer every question related to your work. When you do not know something, an ideal answer is "I don't know, but..." What follows should show ...


48

How the dissertation defense works varies enormously between fields, countries, universities, and departments. Any guidance has to take into account what the expectations are. For example, in the defenses I'm familiar with, there are no common mistakes at all. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone do anything worth calling a mistake. Here, the ...


48

Forget about it and go on with your day.


48

Your wife should ask this question to people in her department. The style and expectations of defenses vary hugely from one place to another. As other answerers mention, it’s pretty normal in the US to have family and friends at the defense. But it’s not absolutely ubiquitous, and I’ve known the expectations to vary even between different departments at a ...


41

I suspect your supervisor was thinking about how that student confirmed your results. A classic way this could happen is, if you solved a problem with one method and then the other student solved the same problem with a different method, and your results agree, then the other student has "validated" your results. Naturally, you don't need to have worked with ...


38

I have seen plenty of thesis defenses that use blackboards (the boards in our department are black- rather than white-, but I don't see that it makes a difference) and also plenty that have used slides. You should ask around -- or remember from previous thesis defenses you have attended; these are almost always open to all interested parties -- to see ...


36

Generally, when faced with questions or comments like this one, you need to respond in a way that is open to the possibility that the professor is right, but that nonetheless demonstrates your belief in your own position. Don't give ground too easily, but don't get too entrenched either, since you need to be open to new information. How you do this depends ...


34

You have given more than enough evidence to show that you need to seek professional help and/or counseling. The impulse of telling people that you're in trouble is a good one. Posting anonymously on a site for academic advice is not the way to go: because you clearly need help by those with professional counseling training and very few academics have such ...


34

Yes, I have seen some similar things in my life and this is indeed a very tricky question. There is a strong tension between our ideals regarding the quality of PhD's (and other degrees) we feel our institutions should be awarding and the practical realities on the ground, which involve messy and awkward decisions that have a direct influence on people's ...


30

The observation that the level of knowledge, skills and achievements shown by someone finishing their PhD varies wildly both among institutions and also among students at the same institution is a very widely made one, but nevertheless is still striking to those who observe it for themselves. At my current institution, we have some graduates that I really ...


29

You talk to your thesis advisor and do what s/he says. S/he'll be responsible for leading (or at least framing the) oral examination and working with the examiners to make sure that you get final approval. None of us know you or your research or the needs of your university or department, the character and reputation of the examiners involved, and so forth -...


27

Usually the answer to this is formulated in the rules of the institution. In Germany we call this the "Bachelor-/Masterprüfungsordnung" (for BSc and Msc) or "Promotionsordnung" (for a PhD). The one from my institution contains something like Die Promotion dient dem Nachweis der Befähigung zu vertiefter selbständiger wissenschaftlicher Arbeit. which ...


26

It sounds like as part of the defense, you gave the examiners access to the system for purposes of evaluating it. If you gave consent for them to evaluate the system, and didn't place any restrictions on what they can do with it, I don't see any problem with what they did. You are correct that is generally illegal to just "hack" into a system, but that ...


26

Here's the thing: People's dissertation work is usually not an earth-shattering achievement. I feel that I have just not done enough. I feel my Ph.D. was sorta-kinda enough; and a "strict version of me" might not have accepted it. (in hindsight I developed a better opinion of it. I now feel it was solid enough work.) My work is simple and I also ...


25

Would I fail if, for example, during the discussion a mistake in my comparison and evaluation approach is discovered which makes my results meaningless? Although I discussed my approach and everything I did with my advisor (postdoc not the prof), yet I still fear that I might have done something wrong and then everything collaps. This should not happen ...


24

Let me turn the question around and answer what I want a PhD candidate to demonstrate during a defense. There are in reality only 3 things: Demonstrate mastery of the subject, i.e., understand where the problem you researched comes from, why it is relevant, what others have already done, and why their approaches are insufficient. That you have made a ...


24

In my department, students usually give out a handout with slides to members of the committee. Many seem to find it helpful - they use it exactly as you said: to take notes, to follow the slides (slides are projected above my head in the amphitheater) or to go back if they missed a step They also use it in other ways - for example, if they want to ask ...


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