My First Maynooth PhD! | In the Dark

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Today saw the viva voce examination of the first PhD student at Maynooth to have completed their degree under my supervision. I delayed my return to Barcelona so I could be present today. It’s not normal practice for the supervisor of a PhD to be present at the examination of the candidate. The rules allow for it – usually at the request of the student – but the supervisor must remain silent unless and until invited to comment by the examiners. I think it’s a very bad idea for both student and supervisor, and the one example that I can recall of a supervisor attending the PhD examination of his student was a very uncomfortable experience. My presence today was limited to supplying a couple of anticipatory bottles of champagne and then waiting nervously for the examination to finish.

I always feel nervous when a student of mine is having their viva voce examination, probably because I’m a bit protective and such an occasion always brings back painful memories of the similar ordeal I went through thirty-odd years ago. However, this is something a PhD candidate has to go through on their own, a sort of rite of passage during which the supervisor has to stand aside and let them stand up for their own work.

The examination turned out to be quite a long one – about three and a half hours – but ended happily. Unfortunately, I had to leave the celebrations early in order to do yet another Euclid-related Zoom call but when that was over I was able to find the pub to which everyone had adjourned and had a pint there with them. I have a feeling the celebrants might make a night of it tonight, but I’m a bit too tired after recent exertions to join them.

The student’s name, by the way, is Aonghus Hunter-McCabe and the title of the thesis is Differential geometric and general relativistic techniques in non-relativistic laboratory systems. If you’re looking for a postdoc to work in related areas then Aonghus might just be the person you want!

P.S. About a decade ago I did a post on the occasion of the PhD examination of another student of mine, Ian Harrison. I found out recently that Ian now has a permanent position at Cardiff University. Congratulations to him!

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