Tuesday, April 22, 2008

An annoying lack of fear

Tomorrow I have my oral qualifiers. I turned in my written one -- a thesis proposal -- two weeks ago, and tomorrow will present about the work and answer whatever questions my committee decides to ask. I don't feel like I've done much of anything on this in the past week, and the reason is...I'm just not scared enough. I've been through quals before. I've been working on or thinking about this project for 4 years now, though for substantial portions of that time I was physically working on other projects. I've never feared public speaking, and I gave a version of this talk last week. After I did so, I asked the one biologist I know who heard the practice for feedback, and he told me I know too much about this subject, probably because I was able to give a reasoned answer to a question which was almost certainly asked as a joke.

So tonight I looked over my powerpoint to remind myself of the order of things, and I did another bit of analysis of some of the preliminary data and tossed it in there. I've bought food for the meeting (cheese, bread, pepperoni, fruit, and juice). And I've read much of a novel that I've read before and which has absolutely nothing to do with my work. I couldn't even get into the mood to bake cookies like I normally do for all committee meetings.

Here's hoping my lack of fear doesn't come back to bite me in the morning. Though I think it's unlikely, I recognize it's theoretically possible for my committee to fail me and tell me I need to leave the program. And yet, even writing that out doesn't send me into the panic I feel it should, with me reviewing the papers I've cited to be sure which author argued which point in which specific paper.

I suppose in the morning I'll find out whether this is the calm of reasonable confidence, or the calm of denial.

Update: I passed. The exam was a lot longer than I expected it to be (roughly 3 hours of me talking and being asked questions, nearly 3:30 hours by the time they'd decided I'd passed, brought me back in the room, and we finished discussing some strategies for the next steps and how to alter things for the grant I'll use this project to apply for in the fall. I felt like quite the idiot at a few points, in which I couldn't remember things which I know that I knew at points in the past, but it's done with. I now most likely don't have another stretch of time as scary as that waiting in the hall until I do the same thing at my actual dissertation defense.

2 comments:

Frank (Francesco) S. Adamo said...

Happened to see that you are a Mad Scientist. I used to be a mad scientists many years ago. Now I'm writing books, etc.

I also saw that you were doing a PowerPoint presentation, so I just wanted to refer to an article I wrote about effective presentation skills for chemists and other [mad] scientists,

www.labmanager.com/articles.asp?pid=164

It may or may not be beneficial, but it is, IMHO, a good article.

AdamX said...

Congrats!