Thursday, April 12, 2007

Congratulations Agnes!

Yesterday one of the graduate students here at the University of Texas successfully defended her doctoral thesis. Agnes (pronounced "awn-YEZ", as she's Swiss) Kim, a graduate student studying white dwarf stars, delivered a one hour talk on her research in front of the entire department and then spent another hour successfully answering pointed questions by her defense committee. According to her advisor, Agnes's thesis is the best-written thesis he's ever read. So congratulations to Dr. Kim! Finishing a doctoral dissertation has to be one of the most stressful parts of any astronomer's life. Essentially you are putting all of your eggs in one basket -- all of your work as a graduate student, five or more years of your life, all comes down to your performance in a single afternoon. Very few people fail to pass their dissertation exams; if a faculty advisor is worth his or her salt, then the student won't be taking the exam if they are not ready. But even so, that possibility lurks in the back of your mind, and you think about all the awful things that could go wrong during your exam. Agnes had her own adventures, having been hit by a truck as a pedestrian just a few weeks ago. She sent an email to her committee after getting out of the hospital (luckily just an injured arm and some aches and pains) that read something like, "I've just been hit by a truck, but the dissertation is still on!" Agnes will continue to work here at the University of Texas as a postdoctoral researcher for the next year while she and her husband search for greener pastures. Congratulations again, Agnes!

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