Reconstructed journal: June 1, 2015

It’s time to reconstruct the journal from my Defense Day! As I said a few posts ago, I have changed my method of journaling, and will now only be using bullet points in the hand-written journal, on the spot, regardless of the preconceived significance of the day. However, for momentous days, I will then expand them on the computer. June 1 of this year definitely applies: my thesis defense date! (Not all of the Full Journal days will necessarily find their way to the blog.)

Monday, June 1, 2015 (DEFENSE DAY)


As if it were any other day, I arose to my phone’s alarm at 07:00. The skies were cloudy outside, and I felt a twinge of nerves. At the same time, a lot of excitement ran through myself. I’ve come this far–there is no turning back at this point! I did not change into my clothes for the day yet, as I was going to take a shower later. I ate breakfast at my desk like always, and had Cheerios. It was unexciting, but I might as well save the excitement for later!

Just because today is my defense day, that doesn’t mean that I will change my Morning Dance. Therefore, I, as usual, listened to B107.3, including Four And No More. I didn’t record what happened, but it’s always fun to listen to. I also read my favorite comics: Bizarro, Beetle Bailey, Brewster Rockit, Pajama Diaries, Pearls Before Swine, Luann, Ziggy, Wizard of Id, Frazz, xkcd, and PhD. I also checked Facebook and Twitter, and my answers from yesterday’s bridge quiz in the paper.

After eating, I left the dishes in the sink, and began another practice run of my defense presentation, with no audience. After refining some of the material over the last few days, I feel a lot better about it. I will not bore my readers with the details of this practice, but I will note that it took me 50 minutes, which showed that I have managed to cull it down from what it was… 72 minutes in my first attempt!

I wanted to make sure that I looked and smelled good, so I then took the Forbidden Actions. It felt good, and the shaving was much easier than the last time–I didn’t have any sort of an omer beard to have to shave frantically! After drying off, I equipped a suit, with a purple tie (of course!). Then, I walked down nine flights of stairs to Level One, innocently singsonging my steps as I walked.

With only my computer case and lunch in tow, I confidently walked from my apartment to Tech via Foster Street and Sheridan Road. It was a 1.2 kilometer hike, and I was lucky to avoid rain. Though no rain was expected (good–I already got drenched enough this weekend!), I was still a little concerned. I stayed dry, and the weather was cool enough that the walk didn’t leave me sweaty. Perhaps others were looking at me with raised curiosity, or maybe not!

Once in Tech, I walked up four flights of stairs in the L-Wing, and snaked through the new addition before arriving in M-445. Clearly, the excitement/nervousness/other emotions associated with the defense prevented me from doing any other type of work (e.g. job application or preparation for tomorrow’s recitation). So I walked down the long hall of the M-wing and stopped in J. Bostwick’s office. I have TA’d for him the last two years. I chatted with him about defending, and also about logistics for tomorrow and next week. Go figure!

Continuing the conversations, I went to W.E. Olmstead’s office, who is on my committee. I asked him about final logistics before the defense. I will give my talk, and then there will be a private questioning which will likely take no more than 30 minutes. Good to know. He also commented on some of my references–many of them included names of people that have been through Northwestern and the E.S.A.M. department. Applied math is really a small world!

This time also involved some small talk with a few of my colleagues in their offices, as I was just trying to stay loose. After that, I completed my application for a lecturership at the University of Oregon, to get another monkey off my back. (Unfortunately, I have not proceeded to the interview stage of any jobs that I have applied for yet…).  Finally, it was 12:00, a perfect time to eat lunch. The lunch might not have been prudent–leftover schnitzel with Israeli salad from last night… considering that I included Sabra’s Supremely Spicy Hummus (disclaimer: this is NOT a sponsored post, and obviously all opinions here are 100% mine). Good news: I did not have gas or a stomachache!

After I ate, I saw Kara, one of my Math 234 students, waiting for office hours. I told her about my defense, and she came to the beginning of it. Other attendees who were not in the department included Evans and Nancy–two of my good friends that I have met at the various sporting events that I have attended. John and Kathrin, who are members of SPG, came to watch as well. It’s great to have such a fun supporting cast!

I then walked down one flight of stairs, and went to L. Keer’s office so that we could walk to the conference room together. It’s been a long road, and though the distance to the conference room was not far from his office, it was symbolic, in a way, of the long distance that I have traveled, mentally, since arriving on campus. What a journey it has been, and it’s now time for THE FINAL BATTLE!

Defense title

So, at 13:00-ish, the defense began. I had to pull in Profs. Kath and Olmstead, who were not there right at 13:00. Ha! In this summary, I will try to be as non-technical as possible, more so than what my defense was.

I began the defense by summarizing a few of the papers that I had read to provide the background for the idea of interface cracks. Each of these papers had assumptions of increasing complexity, and each had various issues that came up. My work was not able to resolve all of them, but research oftentimes doesn’t completely shatter the ground.

My work was motivated by the theory of linear thermoelasticity, so I described the physics and equations thereof. Essentially, the theory is partially physics, partially geometry, and used Hooke’s law to relate stresses and strains.

Both parts of my presentation considered a periodic array of cracks on a bond between two different materials. I considered the heat flow that is disturbed by these cracks, and used this information to develop relations for the stresses. Though I didn’t use any experiments to show my work, I was able to relate my results to previous theoretical work by taking limiting cases of period length and material similarity.

The talk took about 50 minutes, and then the committee shooed everyone else out of the room. For thirty minutes (approximately), I was grilled for more details on a few of the points that I had made, such as the symmetry argument, real world applications, and more. A few of the questions seemed to be difficult for me, but they “held my hands” through the tougher questions. Sometimes I knew the answer but misconstrued the question.  Clarity is not always my strong point…

At 14:35, the committee dismissed me from the room, and spent some time to “cogitate,” as Professor Keer put it. I used the restroom, and then paced up and down the hallway, and also entered the nearby department office. The Interminable Wait was hard enough when I was taking my quals three years ago, so this one seemed even longer. Though Professor Olmstead had told me in the pre-hoc, “The defense is mainly a formality,” I was still rightfully nervous.


The door opens.

In order, Professors Kath, Olmstead, and Keer exit the room.

Kath: “Congratulations.” [handshake ensues]

Olmstead: “Congratulations.” [handshake ensues]

Keer: “Congratulations, Dr. Weiss.” [handshake ensues]

I then picked up my computer, turned off the projector, and returned to my office triumphantly. But not before telling Beth and Lori, the office staff members, the good news. Once I walked back to my office, I saw that the clouds of the morning had dissipated–there was not a cloud in the sky! Talk about Weather Congruence coming back! LEEET THE SUN SHINE IN!!

Phone calls ensued, after my officemate Vicky congratulated me, and accepted my warning that there would be a host of personal phone calls. Obviously, the first person that I called was Mom, but although she was expecting the call, I decided to use the *67 code so that she wouldn’t know that it was me. When she curiously asked “Hello?” I gave my best impression of Dad’s voice, and said, “This is Doctor Weiss.” Needless to say, she was beyond excited for me. I’m guessing she broke down in happy tears after hanging up the phone!

Then, I called Dad, and gave him the good news. This conversation wasn’t as long, but I let him know that he should bring his lab coat to Chicago for a picture that I want to take. (There will be a few other props in this picture too.)

I then called my friend Sarah, because she had wanted, but was unable, to come to the defense. Might as well let the invitees know! We will attempt to rendezvous sometime in the near future.

And finally, I attempted to call Aunt Soni, not only to tell her about the defense, but to wish her a happy birthday. Unfortunately, the answering machine was all I got.

It was only after these four phone calls that I made my successful defense Facebook-Official, by changing my profile picture to “Keep Calm and What’s Up Doc?”

Triumphantly basking in the abundant sunshine after taking additional accolades from colleagues, I walked back toward Hillel, for my first activity as a doctor! However, I was way early for it, allowing me to spend some time in the Hillel lobby, catching up on the journaling that had fallen far into arrears in the last week. One of the other volunteers for the event, Meredith, who also coordinates the Yad b’Yad social events, chatted with me. Unfortunately, she will not be able to attend my graduation.

The event was “PB-Jam,” where we made peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches to be donated to the homeless. There were a limited number of supplies, because this was the beginning of “Reading Week,” the penultimate week of the academic year. I got to chat with Rachel, Meredith, Aitan, and others, and had a lot of fun. Although I don’t do a lot of volunteering, it makes me feel good each time that I do it, especially with Jewish friends.

At 17:00, we ran out of supplies, and I finished the quick and easy walk home, in high spirits. This allowed me to finish my University of Oregon application before I had the next activity, which I needed to do before leaving my apartment at 18:30. Oregon is part of my second round of applications, and I hope that this round goes better than the first round. My application materials are better, and I’ve gotten some advice too.

Dinner was breakfast tonight! I ate a bagel with my homemade lox that I had made for שבועות (Shavuot) the previous week. Additionally, I had some of the fruit that was in my fridge. There is nothing wrong with mixing up the meal schedule, because sometimes breakfast sounds good for dinner, OR dinner sounds good for breakfast, OR sometimes you just have a sweet tooth and want dessert at any hour of the day!

Before I left for אולפן, I got a hold of Aunt Soni, and she was enthralled that I gave her both the birthday wish and the good news about the thesis defense. It has become a strong priority to let close family members and friends stay in the loop by phone message, or if physically near enough, speaking in person.

אז, רכבתי על אופניים למרכז-קהילה-יהודי בסקוקי, על אופני טריק. המזג-אוויר היה מצויין, וגם המכוניות נתנו לי אף בעיה אחת. כשאני באתי לאולפן, השתמשי את המעלית ללכת לקומה ב’. היום בשיעור, למדנו הרבה מילים על רופאים, הבטוי “כואב לי”, ועוד מילים ובטויים. גם אנחנו למדנו את הפעלים “לקחת” ו”לתת”… הם לא רגילים! השיעור הבא יהיה האחרון

(Translation: Then, I rode to the JCC in Skokie on my Trek. The weather was excellent, and the cars gave me no problems. When I came to Ulpan, I used the elevator to go to the second floor. Today in the lesson, we learnt many words pertaining to doctors, the expression “It pains me,” and more words and phrases. We also learnt the irregular verbs “to take” and “to give.” Next week will be the last lesson of this level.)

After ulpan, I headed back to Evanston via Church Street, on a clear night, and the temperature was again very comfortable. There was not much car traffic, and although the sun had set, it was not down just yet. I rode free and quickly on the road, and made it to Engelhart without incident.

As is customary on alternating Monday nights, I listened to the Funny Tunney Comedy Hour. However, my focus was not completely there, as I was concurrently attempting to prepare notes for tomorrow’s recitation. Yes, I wanted to be able to take a few days off in celebration, but I also get to “celebrate” with the students that I TA tomorrow! The show was pretty funny, but I didn’t get a chance to call in, as there was no good prompt, and I didn’t want to call in with half-baked attention!

After the show ended, I called Mom to give her a more complete play-by-play of the day. I won’t recap that here, since it could end in an infinite loop!

With a long day finally over, I hit the hay at 23:23.



This post was originally intended to be published on Friday, just before the hooding ceremony, but I couldn’t finish it prior to that, and didn’t get a chance to finish it until this morning.

Many of my upcoming posts will be about my graduation weekend, especially after I have the photos offloaded from my Dad’s camera.

Countdown to Menomonie: 3 days.

Countdown to Noah’s birthday: 11 days.

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