Interview with Dr. Shangwei Wu about his hybrid PhD defence

“I was teaching, I was preparing for the defence, and I was also taking care of the thesis printing issue. There were so many things going on.” In this interview, Dr. Shangwei Wu reflects on his PhD defence and teaching experiences during the pandemic. Additionally, the defence was held in person with a few committee members and guests joining online. “Overall, I’m happy that I defended my thesis. And I’m happy to see my friends and colleagues at the defence”

First, congratulations on your PhD! I’ve heard that your defence was very fluent and successful. That was impressive! Congratulations.

Thanks!

So, how do you feel right now being Dr Wu, instead of just Shangwei?

Honestly, I don’t really feel there’s a big difference. Actually, I didn’t have time to think of this change of my, hmm, identity, or whatever you’d call it.

I’ve been very busy in the last few months. I was teaching, I was preparing for the defence, and I was also taking care of the thesis printing issue. There were so many things going on. I didn’t have much time to think of my defence. Even after the defence, I still just continued doing the teaching work. I didn’t finish my teaching tasks until last month. So, I didn’t really feel the transformation.

I don’t feel there’s a big difference. But overall, I’m happy that I defended my thesis. And I’m happy to see my friends and colleagues at the defence, because I didn’t get to see many people in the last few months because of COVID. It was nice to see people there.

I was just about to ask this: how did you feel preparing for the defence in such a strange time?

I just felt like I was too busy back then, as I was involved in three classes. I was teaching a Bachelor’s course, a Master’s course, and I was the teaching assistant of another Master’s course. So, I had a lot of work to do. That has made the preparation work a little bit difficult. Sometimes I just felt quite exhausted.

But as for the defence itself, I didn’t find it too difficult. I knew my research well; I knew my thesis well. So, I could expect what kind of questions the committee members may ask. I just felt a little bit overstretched because of the work.

What did you like about doing a PhD here?

I think the colleagues are very supportive, and I also made some friends here. I’ve got a lot of support from them. So that’s what I think is very nice. I also like that we have a thriving PhD community. I remember when I first came here, our PhD community was quite small. There was only a couple of PhD candidates in our department. Now there are more and more PhD fellows and it’s really becoming a community. It’s becoming more fun, I would say.

So, us joining you made it fun, got it. Was there any regret during this journey? What was hard doing your PhD?

I don’t have any regret, but there were definitely some moments when I worried that it might be too hard to survive academia. I had this feeling the first few times my submission got rejected, for instance. I wasn’t very used to it. I thought that meant my article was not good enough. But gradually I got to know that it happens to everyone. I kind of got used to that and realised that rejection is something that happens a lot in academia. In the beginning, there was definitely self-doubt when your submission was rejected. It was hard for PhD students who just started. It can be a little harsh.

Let’s talk about your future. Has it become clear? What’s happening next?

I’m still looking for a position at this moment. What I know for sure is that for now I still plan to work in academia. I still want to stay in academia and be a researcher working at a university. That’s my plan. The rest just remains unknown.

That’s cool. What do you want to say to your fellow PhD students that haven’t graduated yet, and new PhD students?

Good luck (finger crossed and laughing). Enjoy the process. That’s all I want to say.

I know you’re going back to China soon. Would there be something that you miss here?

I will miss our department for sure. I will miss the nice colleagues and the PhD community here.

We’re going to miss you too, for sure. Thanks for taking time to talk with us.

The interview with Dr. Shangwei Wu was conducted by Kaixin 'Xiaoming' Cheng