On Friday 19th I defended my PhD thesis. Here's how it went.
First of all what is a viva?
A viva a basically a conversation with people (examiners) who have read your thesis. They give you comments, ask questions and verify some information. At the end of the viva the examiners discuss amongst themselves their views and decide corrections that need to be made to the thesis before it is finally submitted as a completed piece of work. You can get three types of corrections:
So I had three examiners in my viva. Depending on the country you're in and the university you're in this can change. Imperial usually has two examiners but one of my examiners needed a supervisor because this was their first viva. Anyway! Only two of the examines actually gave their opinions and corrections. They were both experts in their fields - breast cancer and diabetes & cancer epidemiology. They would have some knowledge of parts of my thesis but I was the expert in my subject in that room. The idea wasn't to judge but to help. I wasn't nervous getting up that day or going in but just before I started to get really really anxious. Like about to vomit anxious. Luckily I did not do that, particularly because I was sitting beside one of my examiners waiting for the others to arrive. Awkward.
The viva itself was actually fine. The most interesting thing was even though my examiners came from two different areas (one would work in a lab and one would be statistics based) they both pretty much had the same corrections. I was too over-enthusiastic and I didn't fully tease out my statements. Basically I would say "my data showed this and I've cured cancer". It became a running joke. I completely understood because when I re-read it before the viva I was like "what am I even saying!" The viva lasted 2.5 hours in total which is pretty good (if I do say so myself) and I'd say a good 30 minutes of that was me frozen in thought. You see if you haven't read already I have depression. And the major problem of my depression is cognitive. I find it difficult to form and maintain thoughts. So I will stop mid sentence and be completely lost about what I was saying or how I got there. I also find it difficult to take in information, process it, develop and answer and return an answer quickly. It drives Liam mad. It drives me mad. So while I understood the questions my brain (like anyones after a heavy night drinking) was sluggish and just took extra time coming up with an answer. I gave the answer correctly it just took an extra 2/3 minutes. Luckily my examiners were informed, mostly because I had finished my PhD early due to mental health problems, so they were very understanding. I almost cried a few times but I managed to hold myself together.
So that's it. I passed my viva, got some minor corrections which need to be finished by the 19th October 2019 and I get my doctorate in the post. I mean I am a PhD since I defended my thesis so the rest is more formality than anything!
That's right! I'm Dr. Tyndall now! Don't ask me to help you with any medical conditions but listen if you need a western blot done...go somewhere else I have PTSD.
My name is Caitriona and I am a PhD student at Imperial College London, UK.