The Sassy Scientist – The Wild Card

The Sassy Scientist – The Wild Card

Abasi really is in the final stretches of his PhD voyage. It’s time to pick the external member of his panel. This role is always a wild card: it could make your viva experience either a 1-hour short ego booster, or a 5-hours long living hell of questioning. He ponders:

Who to choose as your external PhD committee member?

Dear Abasi,

Lots of variables to consider here, and potentially lots of politics to keep in mind. The standard choice is to pick someone you worked with during your PhD. This should ensure smooth sailing during the viva: you likely won’t be given a tough time if all the members of your committee co-authored or will co-author papers with you. That is, if they don’t hate you. Or their work with you. Or their work. Big “if”, I know. You also need to consider the relationship between your supervisor and the external committee member. Are there any past grudges? Will these be taken out on you, the academic heir of your supervisor? Will they take this opportunity to point out how they believe that the whole research program of your supervisor is garbage? Twisted, but not unheard of. Granted, this will make for a good show for all who gathered there to see, but this may not be something you want for your friends and family that travelled there just to support you on this very special day.

And after all is said and done you will have to consider: do you want all the committee member at your post-viva celebration? I personally suggest someone which you enjoy having a couple of pints with. Just a couple though. If you invited a party animal you may end up having to clean up after them and apologizing for their behaviour to the department the day after. That surely will be a story to tell your grandchildren, but then again, you probably don’t want that for your own party. Or do you?

The choice is yours.

Yours truly,

The Sassy Scientist

PS: I would make either an excellent or a dreadful choice as an external committee member. It surely would be fun. For me.

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I am currently employed at a first tier research institute where I am continuously working with the greatest minds to further our understanding of the solid Earth system. Whether it is mantle or lithosphere structure and dynamics, solid Earth rheology parameters, earthquake processes, integrating observations with model predictions or inversions: you have read a paper of mine. Even if you are working on a topic I haven’t mentioned here, I still know everything about it. Do you have any problems in your research career? I have already experienced them. Do you struggle with your work-life balance? Been there, done that. Nowadays, I have only one hobby: helping you out by answering the most poignant questions in geodynamics, research and life. I am waiting for you right here. Get inspired.

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