The PhD voice

The Thesis Committee Meeting

Hi all! Here I am to talk to you about another defining moment in my PhD journey, and that varies from student to student: the thesis committee meeting. I had mine last week and I want to use this post as a chance to tell you more about the importance of these meetings.

First of all, the thesis committee is a group of professors or researchers that also includes your supervisors but other relevant researchers for your work. In these meetings, the committee will verify if you have the scientific bases to proceed with your PhD thesis and track your progress. The main benefit from having a group of researchers with different skills is to enable you to gather different opinions in what to further explore in your work and, in general, have a better thesis. You can also ask for help to the different members of the committee during your PhD, not only in your meetings, in any competence that you feel that your supervisors cannot provide so well.

The number of meetings vary per faculty or PhD program. I know other students that have one meeting per year, which is definitely useful, while in my faculty the practice is only one committee meeting for all the length of your PhD. If you only have one meeting, it can either be an early meeting, a meeting in the middle of your PhD, or a meeting almost in the final so that you are given green lights for the defense. Totally depends from your group and also to gather the availability of all the members, which can prove an hard task. In my case, my supervisor made a point that my committee should be early on the thesis, so at the 10 month mark of my work I had mine.

I have to say, I was very nervous. I have a very multidisciplinary thesis and it is quite different from the usual work in my research group. I have to grasp a lot of concepts, namely all the process engineering, stem cell biology and processing, economical analysis and also programming. So this makes up for a complex work and I was wondering if I would have not gathered all the concepts in these areas. All I wanted was for the committee and for my colleagues who were in the audience to understand well what I have been doing and communicate clearly. But in fact, there’s nothing to be nervous about since I knew these meetings were here to help me.

My presentation lasted for about 20 minutes and I was glad that the work was well received by the members, who come from quite diverse areas. I got very useful feedback to carry on, but also made me realize I have a long way to go and have to keep pushing myself. I went on a bit of a slump this last week because I was lost with so many new ideas but I hope I’ll find my way. It’s normal.

So yeah, I was given green lights to continue with my Thesis! Bear with me in this long journey and, if you are in the same journey, we’re in this together! Stay strong!

What was your Thesis Committee meetings experience? How did they help you become a better researcher?

Cátia

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P.S. For those of you wondering why I put an image of the Northern Lights. Yeah, I love Norway but most of all, once I saw the picture this was the metaphorical meaning that green and Northern lights will guide me through hard times.

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