Defense of the PhD Thesis

I have finished the text my PhD thesis at the end of August 2020. This meant that the scientific and writing part was done and from there on out it would be just formalities that I had to do. Of course there still was the defense, but first I needed to do a bunch of things in order to get there.

First one has to print the thesis and bind it. The examination office required me to hand in five copies. Four for the members of my examination board and then another one for the office. The binding and cardboard costs like 10 EUR per copy. That was the easy part.

I had to put in a formal request for an examination. For that I needed a to have an examination panel of four professors. One needs to have a second examiner from theoretical physics, a third examiner from experimental physics and a forth one outside of physics. The three people I have asked happily agreed to be on my panel and I was very glad that it went so smoothly. The hard part was to find a date. Professors are notoriously short on time, so it took one Doodle poll to find a day and another poll to find a time-of-day. But eventually I got my time slot.

The defense usually is done in a seminar room. Due to the pandemic this format was not allowed, it was conducted via Zoom. And although I could have done it from home, I needed to go to the university. At the examination office they have a room where one can go to, perform the Zoom meeting and go back home. But they are out of capacity, so they made me look for a room. I booked a seminar room in the physics institute. My laptop is too old for Zoom, so I tried to have them give me one. But they did not have a laptop. I asked at the institute, and it wasn't really clear which laptop I could get and whether it would work. I ended up borrowing a laptop from somebody else to get it done.

Also it was my duty to make sure that I have internet connection at the university. But at the time I defended the thesis I was neither a student, nor an employee. And although the examination office offered to get guest access credentials for the eduroam wifi, I never actually got them. In the end I brought my own LAN cable and just plugged it into the wall outlet.

My adviser had to confirm that I would have a decent examination environment and a stable internet connection. That is really great again, because now it would be my advisers fault if something went wrong. He created a Zoom link for the event and I have shared that with my family. On the institute side somebody forwarded the link, so everyone just came.

The talk itself went very smoothly, I had practiced it a few times and nailed the 30 minute target. People had a few questions, and I was able to mostly answer them. People later told me that it was a nice talk, I'm happy to hear that.

And then there was the final examination. I was told by other people that it was a mere discussion among colleagues, nothing serious. And indeed they have asked me very decent questions and were not too hard on me. The atmosphere was casual, though I was not sure how easy they would go on me. But in the end it turned out to be really nice. There was nothing I could have done to prepare for that, and just knowing my stuff was sufficient.

A friend of mine asked to participate in the examination as he is going to be the next one in the group to defend his thesis. One can allow one spectator, and so I did exactly that to give him the chance to see it.

At the end they gave me a good grade for the thesis and also the examination. After that I was finally done! There was no big party, but my family quite celebrated it with me.

There were just a few more formalities. I have submitted a PDF of my thesis online to the university library. They checked it, and I had to add a new things to the second page. Then I had to fill out a form on the university library website with the meta data such that they could submit that to the German national library. I had to print three more copies of the thesis. Two went to the university library, one went to the institute library. The secretary of the institute seemed a bit bewildered to receive a copy as there was no institute library. Well, as long as I get my PhD certificate in the end, I ceased to care about the details. I will now see how long it takes until I actually receive my certificate.