On trial

So today is the day.  The day I defend my dissertation prospectus and take my qualifying exam.  I have been preparing for this day for years, but in many ways it feels like no preparation has occurred at all.  In my mind, it will be a cartoonish catastrophe where I, the ultimate caricature of unintelligent, will stand dumbfounded in front of my committee.  In reality, it’s not likely to play out quite this awkwardly, but I still think about it.  More importantly, it’s not like I’m trying to defend an idea to solve world hunger, end war, or bring lasting peace.  Clearly, I am not cut out to be president of the United States.  Either way, I will be on “trial” so to speak at 3pm today.

It’s an odd tradition that completely makes sense.  Although it is your dissertation defense, what you are essentially defending is your intelligence and competence as a scholar.  No big deal, right?  So I guess today is the day we will find out if I can hack it.  In all honesty, I’m less nervous about the results and more nervous about the process.  I fear the experience of being pushed against a wall until you feel trapped in your own stupidity.  This seems to be a common theme in academia.  “Let’s ask you so many questions that eventually you feel stupid about your idea.”  But I still love academia.  Sometimes I wonder if my career is like being in an abusive relationship.  Despite all of the terrible things said to me, I stick with it.  But, just like an abusive relationship, it feels so good when I finally get praised for my work.  More importantly, I love the work I do.  It’s just that awesome.  So here’s to a great presentation and painless questioning session!  Oh yeah, and I will be sure to use the hints found below:

About Megan Johnson Shen

I am a social psychologist graduating with my Ph.D. from Baylor University this May and moving to NYC this summer to start a new job as a postdoctoral researcher at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in the Cancer Prevention and Control Department. I love the brain, human behavior, and anything to do with understanding them better. I love research and a good dinner party. Fine wine and cheese - I'm there. Interesting experimental data? I'll probably show for that too. View all posts by Megan Johnson Shen

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