Thursday, March 11, 2010

How a dissertation defense (in science) goes down

Last Wednesday, I defended my dissertation. A dissertation is a relatively large written work, consisting of 3 or more original essays by an advanced level graduate student. In science, the essays are actually research experiments and literature review papers about lots of other experiments. To defend my dissertation the professors who oversee my work and other guidance (called a committee) approve my projects from the beginning and monitor my progress along the way. Once, I was told that I collected enough data, I stopped doing experiments and I started to analyze the results (in other words, did lots of math) and wrote up the papers. If they like what they read, they give me the thumbs up to present the research to the university. That’s what I did last Wednesday; and I did something few people dare to do…I did before the entire world wide web. See Science Careers Blog A Dissertation Defense, Live-Streamed and Tweeted (with an Update).

Dissertation Defenses are public events. That means anyone can come, such as your family (mine was there), the professors on your committee, fellow classmates, and other professors and college administrators. I decided to simultaneously live stream my defense online for 2 reasons. One, one of my committee members couldn’t be there so that was the only way to defend or else what until he returned to town in May (no way). Two, I’m an online science outreach evangelist. Of course, I was going to share this part of the scientific process with the public. It’s what I do.
According to all feedback received thus far, the live stream went well. At one point a little over 100 people were tuned in watching the defense, including some local professors who wanted to make it but couldn’t. The feed blanked out for a few moments, you can’t see me at all in the feed (but you can hear me crystal clear), and the recorded portions are in three pieces. Nonetheless you can get a pretty good handle on my dissertation and my presentation style.

If you’re interested in my research, the links to the recorded video feed are below as well as my slides from the presentation. Big thanks to all of the twitter feed contributors and Boing Boing for spreading the word.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Oh, and you can call me Dr. now.

Related links:
Wordless Wednesday: Stack of Papers
Countdown to my Defense: T-minus 5 days


OmegaMom said...

Congratulations, Doctor!

DNLee said...

thanks OmegaMom.

Kimberly said...


Yay! Dr. D Lee :) I'm so happy for you. Sorry it's taken me until now to congratulate you, but I've been thinking of you. I wish I could have been there to listen to you, as I'm sure you had the audience captivated by your humor and how much of a genius you are. Congratulations!

SouthernFriedScientist said...

Congratulations Dr. Lee!

scisu said...

Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your experience!

Abel Pharmboy said...



Heartiest congratulations from one of your biggest fans in the science blogosphere. I really missed you this year at ScienceOnline but I know that you needed to focus on what was needed for this day.

Sorry to be late in commenting but I've been a bit under the weather. So, I'll have to look around to see what your plans are next.

Thank you so much for being such an inspiration to young scientists and to all of us who promote underrepresented groups in the STEMM disciplines. We all look for even greater things from you!

Nupur said...

Well, congratulations Dr. DNLee! I am so thrilled for you and wish you much MUCH success ahead.

DNLee said...

thanks everyone. I reall appreciate the support.

unknown said...


Jim said...

"Science outreach evangelist" - oh yeah! Congratulations, Doctor.

I have been helping a Jr Hi Science teacher to pre-evaluate science fair projects. I am going to recommend that he show students your dissertation defense (probably mostly the outline) to relate to their projects' similar (but much simpler) structure.

The general public needs to better understand how science works. Dissertation defenses would be good examples. I just don't know how to get a general audience to watch enough to really learn about the process.

Alice Thomas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
marven said...

I am sure you had the audience captivated . logo design .Creativity is awesome,

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