High points of my big day
The Ph.D defense consists of a ~ 1 hour talk which is public and open to all, followed by a private exam which consists only of 5 committee members and the student.
My best friend from high school was here for my defense! That meant a lot to me. She has little to do with molecular biology or gels or anything. Throughout my talk, every time I looked in her direction, I found her nodding emphatically to whatever I was saying. It was very reassuring. After the talk, she came up to me and said "I didn't understand a thing, but great job!" :D
I finally got to wear my 3-piece suit! My dad bought me this suit when he came to the U.S. as per my sister's specifications that I had to have one. I have owned this for 6 years now and never had an opportunity to wear it. Academic life gives you few opportunities to dress up- and the skirt was not the best idea for my post-doc interviews in biting cold. I am so happy I could finally wear it, and it looked great! :-) (yeah, you've to take my word for it, no pics)
The seminar room I gave my talk in was house full! About 40-odd people showed up. It was very flattering and the show of support made me feel really good.
My advisor gave me a glowing and affectionate introduction. My friend D video-taped my talk, so I have it on tape too, so I can share it with my parents.
The talk went off really well. Both my advisor and I got several huge compliments at the end of it, from students and professors alike, and many more emails later praising my talk. My advisor's words "You blew them away, you have set the bar really high for all future defenses". That's high praise, coming from her!
My advisor has been beaming like a proud mother whose first child took her first step. It is so nice to watch her like that. She was giving me a ride home at the end of the day, and got so emotional about how I had helped her set up lab and how I was now leaving.. aww. It is such a different side of her that I am seeing now.
I have always gotten emotional, and shed tears while at the defenses of my friends, when they came to the acknowledgments slide. When I came to the end of my talk, and pulled up my personal acknowledgments slide with photos of my parents, sis, b-i-l and niece, and the names of all the wonderful people who've been with me through this trip, I DID NOT cry! :-) I was so scared that I would cry, I was sobbing for 20 mins while I made that slide at home. During my talk, I did the whole voice cracking and gulping and pausing to drink water bit, but managed to hold back any tears. My best friend, sitting in the audience, apparently made up for it (my advisor told me later). :-)
My advisor hosted a party for me the next day, to which also several people showed up, including my H.O.D who made the trek from another building. My committee was treating me like an equal and it was an awesome feeling.
One of my committee members during my post-defense exam "I was really annoyed while reading your thesis. It is the first time I had to work so hard to find anything wrong". :D
Oh, but they all did find mistakes galore, and I have less than a day to fix them and turn them in, so I better get back to work. :-)