The Viva

It was the 4th November 2014. I woke up very early, with a lot of butterflies. Today was the day. The concluding day of my PhD. Or so it felt.

My mouth was so dry I could feel my lips sticking to my teeth. But really, I am pleased to tell you, there wasn’t too much to be nervous about.

My examiners made clear with their body language and the nature of their questions that they weren’t there to grill me, or to be just plain mean. They just needed to check I understood my project. Even though the experience was over a month ago, here is a list of questions that have stuck in my mind:

1) What were the most important conclusions from your project? (pretty straightforward)
2) Draw a graph of the PCR reaction (wow, this took me back to first year undergrad! But it is not the first time I have heard of a ‘basic’ question be asked in a viva…)
3) If you wanted to find (this) out, how would you do it?
(this came up ALOT. Think about some future experiments and research a broader range of techniques in advance)
4) Have you considered looking at (x)? (again, think of the wider context of your actual experiments in advance)

I have to say it was not one of the most pleasurable experiences I’ve had. At no point did I relax, contrary to the experience many PhD graduates before me had proclaimed. I also did not leave my viva with a huge sense of relief. But perhaps that is because of the large amount of minor corrections I wanted to complete in the short amount of time before the graduation deadline.

Needless to say my examiners were thorough. Judging on what advice I was given from websites, PhD graduates and academic colleagues, coupled with my own experience. I can almost guarantee no viva is the same. But if you have read enough, and you really did do all your own experiments, you’ll be ok 🙂 



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