How NOT to hand in your PhD



So… It finally happened, I submitted my PhD last week. Feels surreal, amazing, and totally normal all at the same time. But I thought I’d just share the hilarity of the day for posterities sake. I really wish somebody had been following me around that day with a camera, because it would have made for some awesome time-laps photography.

I was back in Canberra for one week to attend the Society for Human Ecology’s 14th International Conference and to submit my thesis. Unsurprisingly, the thesis was not as ready as I had planned (due to circumstances largely outside of my control…), so I spent the week frantically dealing with the final proofreading, reference list and formatting debacles. With this and the conference it was a week of very little sleep…

I wake on Friday morning at about 5.30am after dreaming about blocked printers and binding failures, stressed about the final formatting. I get to campus and can’t seem to print from my friend’s computer (having left in December I no longer have my own desk at the ANU). After being not so politely told by the IT guy in my department that he doesn’t have time to help me I frantically run to the library to see if I can print there. Things don’t go super smoothly and a few tears and some very friendly library staff later the first copy comes out of the printer… covered in black marks and looking decidedly shabby. I abort the library mission and decide to head to office works.

Sprinting across campus I get half way to my car before realising that I probably left my USB at the library. I pause – conveniently next to a bunch of construction workers who probably enjoyed the site of a frantic looking woman in a short skirt emptying the contents of her bag on to the footpath. The USB isn’t there but in a moment of clarity I see my laptop and realise it doesn’t matter. The sprint continues. I get back to my car to find an $83 parking ticket (which I probably deserve, I’ve been parking there illegally on and off for the last four years…), but today? Of all days!

Onto office works and I tell my sob story to the kind man who says he can print my thesis but to get the colour pages into it he will have to do the whole thing in colour at a cost of $300 per copy (I need four). He takes pity on me and presses print, promising to only charge me for black and white. I sit twiddling my thumbs for 30mins only to discover that he has printed it single sided… The margins are set for double sided so the printing begins again, only this time it ends up black and white. Another 30mins passes.

Half way out the door marvelling at the phone-book sized manuscripts in my arm I notice that the page order of one is all messed up. I go back to the kind man and we figure out and rectify the problem. Another 20mins passes.

I leave office works wondering if it really matters that there are no colour pages. By this stage I’ve lost all capacity to make rational decisions and stupidly think that with 2 hours to go I can get the colour pages in. An unnamed hero prints them at work, I pick them up, take them to office works and get the necessary holes punched in the side. I frantically call a friend to met her in her office to do the page switch.

We now have about 30mins before submission time. I explain what needs to be done and get on to sorting out the pages. At some point I look up, horrified to see my friend in a tangle, undoing the coils of the spiral… “shit! not like that!”. Miscommunication on my part, and turns out that she actually saved the day – we definitely didn’t have enough time to unbind and then rebind four copies of my thesis. We resort to scissors and glue. I’m so exhausted by this stage I figure it doesn’t actually matter.

The examiners wont care. Will they???

Crisis averted 10mins before submission time, we head over to the little office and I sign my life away and collect my congratulatory mug (thanks ANU – is that all my magnum opus is worth?). Over celebratory drinks my supervisor tells me that submission day crises are part of the right of passage. While I agree to a certain extent, I’d say that the major lesson from this day is:

DON’T PRINT, BIND and SUBMIT your PhD on the same day.

Author Bio: Carina Wyborn recently completed her PhD at the ANU and is now based at College of Forestry and Conservation at the University of Montana.