Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Disputation

We flew from Manchester to Oslo last night, just as the sun was getting ready to say goodbye.


This was a visit with a purpose – son Nº 2 is completing a PhD and in Norway that's done a bit differently. In the UK you write 80,000 words and defend your thesis before three professors. In Norway, your 80,000 words includes some published papers. Then you have your "disputation", before your three "opponents". These translations into English make it sound quite adversarial, but it didn't feel like that at all.  The day before you defend your thesis, you give a 45 minute lecture on a topic chosen by your examiners, to demonstrate teaching skills. This is a public event, to which you invite friends and family. Your examiners sit in the front row and ask you questions afterwards about what you said. They (of course) are world experts in the topic they set – in this case "The relationship between respiratory infection in childhood and the development of asthma". Well, he is a paediatrician!


Now, on this occasion, the three professors had themselves each given a lecture (plus questions) beforehand, so it was a lengthy, but fascinating, afternoon. And Nº 2 son ensured he got to ask them a couple of questions! But only if he passed this stage could he come back on the morrow for the defence of his thesis – also a public event.

All went well. They liked his presentation, and we'll be back tomorrow. But, for me, one of the highlights of the trip has already occurred. It was when one of his supervisors, in the context of a question following the first lecture of the afternoon, credited his research as being behind a significant change in how the hospital deals with a particular issue. Now that does make for proud parents!

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