Defending the PhD-an end of an era
All good things come to an end, or so they say? On the 1st of July 2021, after 3 years and 1 month of hard work, I managed to defend my PhD!
Here in France, the requirements for defending the PhD is to have followed a certain number of class hours, presented the PhD topic at least once in the annual conference of the doctoral school and having two first author (or one first author and one co-author) publications. From the two publications, one must be already accepted or published and the second may be submitted. Sounds complicated right?! On top of that, we have other obligations to meet in the context of the DRIVE consortium (two research secondments, an outreach activity, attending DRIVE courses and conferences etc.), but I have to admit that these were a lot of fun!
In my case, I was fortunate enough to have one pulication already published (our co-written Review with DRIVE collegues Federica, Catherine, Yasmina) and I submitted my original paper almost at the same time as my thesis manuscript (although retrospectively this was not such a great idea). I have to admit that the last 6 months of my contract were the most stressful period of my life, due to all the tasks needed to be completed in order to be able to defend on the pre-arranged date.
Figure 1. What the audience saw at during my thesis defence presentation. Defence is less impressive when performed in online format, right?! Photos are a kind contribution of my DRIVE colleague Babu.
The day of the defence was overwhelming and felt like an out-of-body experience. After my 45-minute long presentation (it was in online format, with my supervisors and some of the Jury present, in accordance with Covid measures) there was a three-hour long discussion with the Jury. The Jury members (five in total) each took turns and asked questions related to my project or their area of expertise. I have to say that I could not answer all questions but we had a meaningful discussion with the Jury and I could still learn even in my PhD defence day! What made this day so special was that the Jury members were all selected by me and were scientists that I admire and have met or collaborated with throughout the last years. Before the Jury gathered to deliberate, there was a talk by my two supervisors, Charlotte Primard and Bernard Verrier, who highlighted my professional development throughout these years. At this point we were quite emotional and grateful for all the time we have shared these last years. Finally, after a private discussion between the Jury, I was awarded my PhD and we could all drink champagne (even if I have not quite yet mastered the art of opening a chambagne bottle like the French). It was also really touching that many of my family and friends followed the defence, even if lasted more than 4 hours!
Figure 2. After the defence, champagne bottles were opened (not in the picture because I was not as succesful as those Ferrari drivers) and gifts received!
What happens next? This is a question that inevitably everyone asks after one has completed their PhD. Having put all my energy of the last 3 years in my project and this project now being terminated leaves me in a destabilizing situation. What next? For us who cannot be employed in the laboratory where we have performed our PhDs, what next? A research position in academia or industry, what next? Many of us DRIVE early stage researchers had to pursue our PhDs in a foreign country, and in the meantime we have created bonds even if nostalgia for our home country still lingers. Where next? is as a valid question as what next…
I have no answers to all these questions but all I can say is that pursuing a PhD was definitely worth it!
Thanks to all DRIVE members for their help and guidance throughout the PhD and special thanks to Fulvio Regiorri for creating this ETN DRIVE project! Wishing all the DRIVE members good luck and who knows, maybe our paths will cross again… Autophagy after all, is a small world;)
Figure 3. Some of the DRIVE ESRs and PIs in the DRIVE meeting in Madrid, 2019. Will miss all of you and our annual meetings a lot!