had a thesis committee meeting recently?
Yes, thesis committee meetings can be such a hassle. Depending on when your last meeting was (if ever), you may have to go over months or years worth of data, positive and negative results (bringing back all of those bad memories)–and then assimilate it all into a presentation. Sadly, you have to come to terms with the fact that, yes, in fact the last 12 months of your life can be compressed into a 1-2 hour presentation. At the same time, you may have to confront the fact that despite the hard work, not much has been accomplished. (If you have accomplished a lot–kudos to you!). There is often a tendency amongst graduate students to avoid the thesis committee meeting until there are some really good results, or if there are good results, wait until the hot streak is over–or in most case, wait until the graduate program mandates a committee meeting. I’ve been through it and every other graduate student I know has gone through it. And almost unanimously, in hindsight we wish we had done it differently.
There really is never a good time to have a thesis committee meeting. I bring this up because I was talking to a buddy of mine who is in year 5 of graduate school and has had only one thesis committee meeting. (Actually, this describes more than one of my buddies). In hindsight, the thesis committee can be a valuble resource. Sitting down and gathering all of your thoughts, writing a summary of the work, or putting a Powerpoint presentation together can often times be a much needed break that allows an objective look at one’s work. At the same time, if you are headed in the wrong direction (especially if your gut tells you so), the committee may be able to help you get back on track.
Now in my buddy’s case, his project was never well defined and when he had his first thesis committee meeting at the start of his tenure in his lab, it was okay because he had just started. Three years later, his project has remained largely undefined. He has done a lot of work–most of it though very undirected with no particular purpose. And, he has received little to no guidance. He is in a large lab where it is easy to get lost and left behind, and this exactly what has happened to him. In a situation like this, a thesis committee meeting–even with no result–will provide the sometimes necessary confrontation, i.e. the thesis committee saying “what the heck are you doing?”, that will get the attention of both the student and advisor to rectify the situation.
I am happy to report that my buddy now has some direction through the intervention of another graduate student who has been collaborating with him on a new project. I really hope it works out. He’s got a pretty strong thesis committee so I suspect he will get some good feedback in the next few months when he finally gets them together.