Four and a half weeks ago I defended my Ph.D. thesis at Tilburg University, so I’m a dr. now! I’m glad that it’s over, although I had a great time at Naturalis, Tilburg and exploring the world (OK, the last few months going through the text over and over again to spot any more typos, sloppy wordings, inconsistencies and generally prettifying the text to improve readability were not the most enjoyable). Then, since I got word that the committee had approved of the manuscript another fun part started: preparing the document for printing. In the Netherlands, Ph.D. theses are to be printed properly, so with a snazzy cover, copyrights notice, particular format (17.0 x 24.0 mm) etc. An ISBN number is optional (but of course I got one :)). So, the day after my Scotland-England trip, I went by the printer’s office on my way to Amsterdam to check out different paper types, get some help on choosing the right black for the cover and various other bits and bobs. After mucking around with LaTeX to change the margins a few mm (it just made it look that much better) and a crash course in Adobe InDesign for the cover and bookmark, it was out of my hands on May 17. A few days later I already received some test prints, and on June 9 I held my book in my hands, well, all the 210 copies. About half of which I immediately had to part with because they needed to be sent to various institutions and people.
After drooling on the books for a while, I had to get to work to prepare my introductory talk, get a shirt (I looked around for a new suit, but couldn’t find a nice one), prepare for the questions and try to get enough sleep (which was hard, because I was so excited, hell, I’m still excited!). The day of the defence itself went really fast. I got to Tilburg early in the morning because TiCC had organised a symposium with talks by two of my opponents (profs. Ed Hovy and Piek Vossen). Of course the talks lasted longer than expected, so when I thought I’d have some more time to flick through the book again before the defence I didn’t; instead I had to get changed immediately and rush to the main building where I would meet my parents and one of my paranymphs, my brother Hans (my other paranymph was Steve). When Hans and Steve got changed into their suits, we went to the auditorium to plug in my laptop and to get the instruction of the beadle about where to stand and which way to walk etc.
At 14:00 I started my presentation (in Dutch) which I managed to time exactly 10 mins, so that was a good start. At 14:15 the committee, chaired by Harry (my BA and MA supervisor) entered and the questioning began (in English). The questions were tough, but fun, and varied, and actually it was almost a shame that it was over after 45 mins. Although my paranymphs were quite happy it was over, because standing still for 45 mins in the heat in black tailcoats with all the trimmings turned out to be quite a challenge. After a while the committee returned, and they had decided that my answers were good enough so I got my diploma!!!