PhD defense

The thesis of BO can be found in the Leiden repository

Some days ago I was a member of the opposition committee, this time for candidate BO. She did a fantastic job of combining qualitative and quantitative research on the effect of the academic and scientific training we give our medical students, both within and outside the regular curriculum. She showed, in various studies, how the approach chosen in the LUMC seems to stimulate young MD to do research. I won’t do in too much detail, because I am afraid I won’t do the work justice to be honest -BO was not only diligent in her methodology, but also strong in showing the strong and weak sports in her methods and reasoning. So, if you want to know, you can find her thesis, with the inspiring title ‘Future physician-scientists: let’s catch them young! Unraveling the role of motivation for research’ in the repository of the Leiden University

The Dutch PhD defense seems sometimes more of a ritual, than an actual exam. This is because the outcome is clear to all involved – if the candidate is allowed to defend (sometimes referred to as the viva), the candidate will get her doctorate. I think the only way you will not be awarded your doctorate is if you actually pass out or something else massive, which renders answering any question impossible. The questions are thought to be an exchange of thoughts, and function thus as a way to showcase your work and not so much to challenge or test it. Or is it?

I was not the only thinking this was excellent work. BO got Cum Laude, which is the highest evaluation that is only given to about the top 5% of candidates. Cum Laude not only requires more external evaluators (all asked their opinions in secrecy), but is also dependent on the defense. Indeed, it is possible for a candidate to not perform well enough, and the candidates just passes the defense like everybody else. So it is always a surprise for the candidate to hear those words at the end of what sometimes really is an exam: You have passed the exam with the highest honors.