Sunday, August 8, 2010


It's pronounced "fd," in deference to one of my favorite scenes from the animated classic Yellow Submarine. The Nowhere Man introduces himself by handing four cards to the four Beatles, which, when read in order, identify him as Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph.D. The final card, and the fd pronunciation, belong to Ringo, who later comments on Jeremy's education: "He's so smart he doesn't even remember what he knows."

That's pretty much what a PhD feels like, to me.

My dissertation was officially approved by the university registrar on Tuesday. I'm delighted, of course, primarily because I had grown to despise the thing and now I never have to look at it again. Bliss! Also, now I get to do things that are not writing my thesis. Joy!

With the exception of my husband and cats, most everything was neglected while I wrote. I ate ice cream for lunch. I reponded to friendly overtures with "thesisatemybrain, kthxbai." I turned Squid-A-Day into Squid-A-Week and didn't even post every week. (But Squid-A-Fortnight just . . . doesn't work for me. Does it work for you? No? Good!)

This is how it went down, in Three Simple Steps to Graduation:

1. Schedule.

The task: find a day and time when all committee members are available. Word problem skills from third grade come in extremely handy. Fictional example: If George is gone from July 10-17 and John is gone from July 15-22, and Mark leaves town on July 30th, but Bill teaches on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Mark prefers to go to campus in the morning, when can you schedule your defense?

2. Write.
Having scheduled your defense, you now realize that you have to give a thesis draft to your committee one month before the defense. Calculate what day this is. Panic, then soothe yourself with the knowledge that the pain of grad school is a universal constant.

3. Defend.
You've been losing sleep and possibly even your lunch, but in the end, you just . . . do it. And then it's done, and you are free to celebrate however you wish. In my case, labmate Julie presented me with a delicious chocolate cake that said WAY TO GO DANNA. And everyone familiar with Cake Wrecks cried with laughter. And everyone else thought we were very strange.

So that was that.

After a few more weeks of vacation, Squid-A-Week will turn back into Squid-A-Day. Grad school may have withered my interest in an academic research career, but I'm never going to stop loving cephalopods.

That said, I watched Back to the Future for the first time ever (yes, ever!) last week, and Christopher Lloyd came very close to reviving my enthusiasm for science. Maybe I should be a rogue scientist like Doc Brown! Alas, I do not have the crazy eyes.

(Incidentally, this is a fun movie to watch with Googlers. There is no better audience from which to demand flying cars. "If you don't get on that, who will? Microsoft? Apple?")

So now I may have to add hobby science to the list of post-grad endeavors, which already includes gardening, cooking, writing popular non-fiction and novels, painting, learning guitar, re-learning Sanskrit, illustrating games, making new games, reviving old games, putting on plays, and formalizing my position as cephalopod emissary.

Now that grad school is over, this sudden explosion of freedom and time makes me think I can do
everything. I've always been a jack-of-all-trades--why not master them all?

Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph.D., begins to look like a warning against the temptation to keep cramming as much activity as possible into my life. The Nowhere Man, after all, is a Renaissance man. "Eminent physicist, polyglot classicist, prize-winning botanist, hard-biting satirist. Talented pianist. Good dentist too!"

But I don't want to turn into a Nowhere Man. I want to be Somewhere.


  1. Congratulations, Danna! Don't forget to add rats to your list.

  2. Thank you! And yes, I do love rats...

  3. Congratulations to you for successfully made it through your Ph.D. degree. I am still doing my masters study at the moment and your post helps me a lot as a juggle work and study. Thanks for sharing your experiences, I learned a lot from it.
    my blog: Parc enfant


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