I have just finished writing my dissertation. It’s been five months of dedicated reading, studying, writing, editing, wrestling with EndNote citation software, and coping with Microsoft Word crashes. That’s five months I would have rather been blogging, but, unfortunately, I still have not accumulated enough sponsors to turn the Land of Yajeev into a full-time gig. Until then, I’ll have to keep on keeping on with the science stuff.
So the way this works is essentially as follows. I spent the first two years of my graduate program completing my coursework requirements. For the next two and a half years, I engaged in full-time research in a biochemistry laboratory working on my dissertation project. I came up with a few hypotheses and set out to testing them. Funny, when I write it like that, it sounds so easy. Then came the write-up: my Ph.D. dissertation. Basically a 150-page lab (uber)report to be read and graded by my dissertation committee, a panel of professors with expertise in my field of study.
I have spent the past several weeks editing, revising, tweaking my dissertation. Printing, proofreading, re-printing, re-proofreading, re-re-printing, etc. Printing the final draft, making photocopies, collating, and, finally, preparing for distribution to the members of my committee.
My advisor has told me that there are some professors (perhaps, say, like my advisor?) who, as long as they have a “pretty good feeling” about the doctoral student, won't even read the stinking thing. I'm not sure which would be worse: to have put all this time (and caffeine) into my dissertation only to have the doctoral committee merely flip through the pages (even though some might argue that just turning every page would actually constitute a complete reading)... or having them scrupulously read every page, parsing each sentence, demanding that I re-think, re-edit, or re-write.
Yesterday, I visited the professors on my committee to personally hand each of them their very own copy of my opus. Two professors humored me and greeted me great enthusiasm. The other two were nowhere to be found, so I left their copies on their desks. Which is sort of anticlimactic. I mean, you exhaust so much blood, sweat, and tears on this thing, and you at least want the satisfaction of handing it to the committee members. Maybe a handshake. Or a high five.
I did receive the following email message, though, from a professor on whose desk I deposited my dissertation:
Your dissertation’s here; I just finished it. Couldn't put it down, better than a Grisham. Just kidding; looks impressive and I will read it eventually.
By "impressive", I'm assuming he means "bulky", and I hypothesize that "eventually" just may be a “maybe” euphemism. (though, I do appreciate his humor and recognition of the appearance of impressiveness, if only in heft.)
If my first round of critics (ie, the committee) appreciate it, I think I’ll adapt the dissertation into a screenplay: a science-fiction tragicomedy about an enzyme that finds her purpose in protecting the cell in which she lives from the stressful conditions that threaten its very existence, the proteins which provoke her to action, and the evil villain who would dampen her life-preserving impact on her cellular environs.