It’s official: I defended my PhD dissertation, and now I’m Dr. Manahova! Crazy…
The defense itself was a great experience, actually. I was nervous, for sure, but more than that I was excited. While I was a bit anxious to find the right answer to each question, I also enjoyed the dialogue. And at the end when I was awarded the PhD degree, it was exhilarating!
Practice makes progress
I will stay away from saying, “practice makes perfect” because my defense certainly wasn’t perfect. But I think the reason I was able to feel excited instead terribly anxious is that I had practiced and prepared.
At the beginning of my defense, I presented a 10-minute summary of my work. Oh, had I practiced and practiced it! For one week before the defense, I practiced my presentation once a day every day. In fact, I really don’t like practicing presentations; I don’t know why, but I never have. However, I made a promise to myself that I’d practice it every day because I knew it would help me stay calm and feel prepared, and I kept that promise.
On the day of the defense (this past Monday), I practiced my presentation three times one after the other. It felt very silly to practice the same talk three times in a row, but I felt myself improving with every repetition, and that boosted my confidence.
During the two weeks prior to the defense, I also read up on some recent papers related to my work. This gave me a feeling that I was up to date with the field (to some extent), but there was also another unexpected benefit: during the defense itself, some of my answers were inspired by the papers I had read in the previous two weeks. These were new ideas that went beyond what I had written in my thesis, so I believe they contributed to a more interesting discussion with the committee members.
The end of a massive chapter
My PhD defense marked the end of a long, important chapter in my life. I began my master’s in cognitive neuroscience in September 2014, then started my PhD in the same area in October 2016, and now finally defended my doctorate in October 2022. Wow, that’s eight years of my life! I truly can’t believe it.
I’ve learned so much during this time, and I’ve had so many great experiences. My supervisors were amazing, and my colleagues were so, so cool. I didn’t quite figure out the mystery of the brain, but I’d like to think I advanced our understanding, albeit a tiny bit.
Now that this chapter has come to an end, I am ready for the next one. There’s something bittersweet about transitions, and there’s something exhilarating too. It feels like everything is possible. I can’t wait to see what comes next. At the same time, I think I’ll take a little break and rest for a few days–it has been wonderful but intense!
By the way, if you’d like to check out my PhD dissertation, you can find it here.