The Ph.D. defense

The Ph.D. candidate was there at 8:20 for a 9 a.m. presentation, because that is what you do on the day of your final oral defense.

By 8:40, a box of donuts and a pot of coffee were ready on the table in the back. Her PowerPoint presentation was up, its cover page showing on the projector screen.

"Do you need a laser pointer?" someone asked.

She had one, of course. Still: "Let me check it one more time."


This was the day. She'd been working on this project for more than six years.

"That's a long time," she said. "So I better graduate!"

And she laughed. A nervous, giddy laugh. A beautiful laugh.


Then the room was quiet. The clock ticked. Five minutes later:

"I hope everyone remembers to come," she said.

The air-filtration system whispered.


She sipped her drink, reviewed her notes and the butterflies did their work. Finally, people came in a trickle, and then the dam burst: Her committee chair. "Hey!" he said. "Are you all ready?"

He wore patches on his elbows and a 100-watt grin.

"I think so," she said.

They took a picture together. One nervous. One proud.


And at the stroke of 9 the room bustled, maybe 30 people in all.

"After all the years of hard work," the committee chair said, "she is ready to defend."

She gave her presentation. It took 45 minutes. The room was rapt.


Then, the acknowledgements, with photos: Lab mates and mentors, a team picture. Friends. The sister whose wedding she'd missed.

The father who told her it was OK to leave their conservative family to become a scientist in the U.S.

A toddler son in a football shirt.

"I thank him for waking me up every day at 3 a.m.," she said. "He has no snooze button."

The husband, who stayed up all hours with her, when she had to do experiments at odd times, so the cells wouldn't die. They went to IHOP breakfasts afterward. They'd made it work.

All to get to this day.


"Thank you," she said. Applause.

Was that it? Did she pass?

"We will conduct the exam now," her committee chair said.

Oh. Do we stay for that? Or do we go?

"You go," he said.

With that, the real grilling began.


That afternoon, word came down: She'd done it.

Soon, we'll call her "doctor."

Call her doctor, at last.


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Hima Chandana
April 27, 2012 at 12:30 AM

Thank you Kalani Simpson for an excellent narration of the event,Even my sis(Hima Bindu) might not have explained it in this way without missing minute details .

April 26, 2012 at 9:41 PM

Very well written! :) Congrats again Bindu! Will miss seeing your smiling face around campus!! Hopefully someday the same can be said about me!! Phew!!!

April 26, 2012 at 4:28 PM

Though I could not be at the seminar, I could visualize the proceedings. Nice write up.

vijaya kumar Yajjala
April 26, 2012 at 4:13 PM

Very well written Story....

Harsha Reddy
April 26, 2012 at 1:18 PM

Reliving the moments

himabindu ramachandrareddy
April 26, 2012 at 11:27 AM

Very nicely written story. Felt like reliving the defense day one more time.

Sherry Martin
April 26, 2012 at 8:14 AM

Very nicely written; I felt like I was the one who just went through all this. My heart started to beat faster and near the end my eyes were filling with tears of joy. Thank you for expressing this moment of accomplishment in a real and beautiful way.

Denise Britigan
April 26, 2012 at 7:45 AM

Beautiful! Brings back many memories...thank you!