The Night Before The Defense

Clint Edwards_SmithIts a funny thing working on my masters defense presentation right now. The paper from this work was submitted to a journal as of  the first of the year, and though I have worked on it periodically since then, I have largely moved on to working on other new projects in the lab. I have also presented this work, albeit it in shorter format, twice before in what were seemingly higher pressure situations than my defense at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Given this, it should be surprising I’m up til midnight three days out, pretty much finished with the talk but nerding out on tangents and the little extras that I think will really make the talk better, though I wouldn’t have thought so a couple years ago.
As it turns out, a graduate education is more nuanced than I expected, and this is exactly how this should all be ending. It all starts off very academic, at least in the classic sense.  The first year you are still taking classes and feeling like you have to play catch up on the material. Then, things get serious as you begin the study that will ultimately define your thesis. Your education becomes as much about time management and handling practical logistics as it does about learning technical details. However, in finishing your higher education for many, not all, it becomes this deeply personal process where hopefully you come out the other side with a good contribution to science and a better sense of purpose in life. I’m hoping that my attention to details that will likely be missed by the audience means I’ve passed through these stages.