Phinally Done!

My doctoral diploma arrived in the mail a few days ago, which makes my PhD fully official now!

Clemson University PhD diploma
Clemson University PhD diploma

Because of COVID-19 related precautions, the Clemson “hooding” ceremony wasn’t going to have any actual hooding of the PhD graduates like there would be for a normal event, so Connie and I met up with my advisors to have our own private hooding ceremony the week before the Clemson ceremony. Having the hood put on me was the important part, so I’m not wearing the regalia.

My own private PhD hooding ceremony

To commemorate the occasion, Connie made me this cool ornament.

PhD ornament
PhD ornament

A much modified Clemson University Fall 2020 Doctoral “Hooding” ceremony was held at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, SC on December 16, 2020.

There wasn’t nearly as large of a crowd at the graduation as I expected, and it seemed like maybe about half of the PhDs listed in the program were present. Made for a pretty quick ceremony. For people who couldn’t make it to the hooding ceremony, the whole thing was streamed for people to watch online (don’t let the preview image fool you, there was no hooding going on).

I show up for a few seconds at the 40:56 mark in the video.

This is the part of the ceremony where the PhD is conferred to the graduates (from Connie’s vantage point in the stands):

And this is Connie’s view of me walking across the stage:

2020 graduates were also given a nice little pin custom designed for the occasion. From the hooding ceremony program, the pin is described as “a block ‘C’ logo that was in use in 1955 when Clemson offered its first doctoral degree program. Across the C are three stripes like the ones graduates are wearing on their sleeves today.”

Clemson PhD graduation pin
Clemson PhD graduation pin

Although the PhD is done, work on related research continues. I still need to re-write one of the papers I wrote for my dissertation and submit it for publication. My advisor also asked me to submit an abstract based on my work to the upcoming IADR meeting, so I’ve got that to work on as well.

In my graduation regalia under the Out sign
I’m out

I did a thing

Today, I successfully defended my PhD dissertation! Now I am Almost PhD!

Now and then
Then (Jan 9 2019) and now (Nov 12 2020)

The only thing left to do now is make sure the requisite paperwork gets all the signatures and turned in to the Graduate School, and to finish up writing the dissertation. The dissertation is pretty much completed now. Just a few more modifications to make and I’ll have another draft to send to my advisor for feedback. I’ve got about three weeks before the submission deadline, but hope to have it ready to submit before that. Then the final step will be the graduation ceremony in mid-December.

Dabbling with virtual machines

The software I’m using to do some of the Monte Carlo simulations (PCXMC) for my PhD research is Windows based (fortunately it runs without any issues under Wine) and single-threaded, which makes some of the larger simulation sets I’m doing extremely inefficient when running them on my computer. The PCXMC window would also pop up every 5 minutes or so when another simulation started up and interrupt whatever I was trying to do at the time. It was tolerable since the smaller sets only took a few hours to complete, but I decided I was going to need a better solution.

One solution I attempted was to try running multiple instances of PCXMC, but they ended up clobbering each other and was just ugly.

The next obvious solution was to run PCXMC in a virtual machine (VM). Until now, I haven’t had much need to learn much about creating and managing VMs but they seem like a perfect solution to the problem. I can spin up a few VMs to run PCXMC and have each of them run different parts of the larger simulation sets or different simulation sets.

Virtual Machine Manager , I’ve discovered, is a super handy utility that makes creating and keeping track of VMs super easy. It offers a nice intuitive GUI interface for creating and managing VMs. I can use a live ISO image of my choice to create a new VM with the amount of RAM, storage, and number of CPUs needed. Once I’ve got a VM set up and configured with everything it needs, it’s easy to clone however many copies of the VM that will reasonably fit into my hardware.

Virtual Machine Manger window
Virtual Machine Manager window

The first VM I created had 500 GB of storage, 8GB of RAM, and 2 CPUs. Created a few more with only 250 GB of storage, 8GB of RAM and 1 CPU. Put four of these to work on one of the larger simulation sets over the weekend. The first time I ran a version of the set, it took about 10 days to finish on my computer. With 4 VMs each running a different part of the simulation set, everything was finished in about 2.5 days. Sweet. I can peek in on each VM with a viewer application to see how each one is running, but otherwise they run quietly and hidden away on their own. No more PCXMC windows popping up on my desktop to interrupt me while I’m doing other things.

Quickly realized that these VMs were way more than was needed, and 4 VMs with 8 GB of RAM each didn’t leave my computer with much memory left for doing much else (it only has 24 GB RAM). Next task will be to create some VMs with one of the other lighter Fedora spins (LXQT maybe) and a smaller footprint (100 GB storage, 4 GB RAM) to run PCXMC with.

PhD Candidate!

After doing my qualifier presentation back in May, I discovered there was another step before I could become a PhD Candidate.

The proposal presentation is supposed to demonstrate to the committee that my research is going on the right track and I’m actually capable of doing the work. Mine took the form of an NIH format grant proposal and a presentation to my committee.

Today I gave my presentation, and my committee saw fit to pass me, so now I can call myself a PhD Candidate!

This is good…I think.

Now the rest of the work begins.

Almost PhD Candidate!

After four months of reviewing and studying the literature, writing, and reviewing lecture notes, I made it past my PhD qualifier exam! Now I can call myself almost a PhD candidate!

Taking the weekend off to take a bit of a break and get caught up on some computer maintenance tasks (swapping out some dying hard drives), and then back to work on the research.

Next step will be to figure out what software I want to use for my Monte Carlo simulations, plan out the simulations I want to run, and what data I need to collect.