The image shows the title of my dissertation: "From Layard to Lara Croft"
Academia Personal

The defense of my PhD


Last Wednesday, I actually had my PhD defense. It was intense, but I am very very happy, that it is over now. I usually don’t get nervous anymore when I speak in front of people, but this was something else. It lasted 1,5 hours, but after that, I got my result…

The build-up

I have already talked about writing my PhD, but I also had to defend it. So I knew about my defense for a while now. I think I made the appointment at my Almer Mater (which was not easy) about six weeks ago. When I finally got a date, time and room, where everyone (5 people) were available, I had four weeks left. Naturally, I had other things to do first, so I waited until 2 weeks before my defense to actually prepare.

I needed to prepare a 30 minute talk and re-read my dissertation once more, so I was ready for the questions. Also, I had some additional books I wanted to read in preparation, so I did. I started to do the PowerPoint six days in advance to have time to practice what I wanted to say. I was getting nervous now, because the deeper I dug into my own text, the more questions I had. Also: preparing the PowerPoint showed me, that it was not easy to really explain what I did in my dissertation in just 30 minutes…

The defense

Image of the "Holzlaube" in Berlin, the building where Archaeology is taught
This building is where Archaeology is taught in Berlin | Photo: Stefan Müller-Naumenn, FU Berlin.

On the day of the defense, I arrived on point and set up my presentation. I chose to have an open defense, because I wanted some friends there to have a couple of friendly faces to look at. My supervisor have also friendly faces, but at that point, they made me nervous. So I started to give my presentation and it went more or less smoothly. As I practised it a lot before, I was very confident in the delivery.

After the presentation, the committee had 1 hour (!) to ask me questions and boy they did! But paradoxically, this was the easy part. I felt more and more confident answering their questions and at the end, I actually had fun! I mean, yes, they could have asked me meaner questions, but maybe they didn’t know. Maybe they even tried, I can’t really say, but in the end, everything went well. I got the best possible grade there is, which is just marvellous.

Getting drunk

It was done! It was over! I made it. After getting some congratulations and presents, I was starting to relax. I really was happy about the outcome and was done with the university for the day! Luckily I booked a table at a nearby pub, where my family, some of my friends and part of the committee joined me for dinner and drinks.

Beer never tasted that good! We were talking for a while. About the dissertation, about the defense and about a lot of other things as well. It was a beautiful evening and I am sure, I will never forget this day for the rest of my life. My next steps involve me publishing my dissertation as quickly as possible, because in Germany, you get the title only after that. So although the defense was the most thrilling step, it was not the last one. Cheers!

This image shows me right after my PhD defense.
It is done!


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Sebastian Hageneuer

Hi! My name is Sebastian. I am an archaeologist, a university lecturer, freelancer, guitarist, and father. You could say I am quiet busy, so I learned to manage my time and energy to build good habits and still have space for myself and my family. Sounds difficult? Read here how I do it. Every Friday.

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