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Defending your thesis is no joke. I've had friends crack up while preparing. It plays out like an episode of "Defend Your Life." In many cases you are defending your life. Your thesis is more than words on a page, it's a fundamental belief that you've been working towards for years. Everything learned and gained has had a part to play in the birth of that brief. So it can be gut wrenching and life altering when you find yourself at a loss in it's moment of reckoning.

Redditor u/dexMiloyev wanted to know about the times as a student when many of us were left.... stumped by asking.... Doctoral candidates who couldn't defend their thesis, what happened?

In Bed

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One of my colleagues in grad school didn't finish his dissertation. Our advisor moved universities and told him he wasn't invited.

My friend had a nervous breakdown from which he never recovered. His wife divorced him because he spent all day catatonic in bed for months, and they had two young children to take care of.

flyover_liberal

Remind me Later

I've only heard of one or two people who didn't pass in the 6 or so years I was in grad school. They just worked on whatever their committee said to expand on and re-did their defense at a later date. Your advisor really shouldn't let you get to the point where you're defending and there's a chance you won't pass. It's more common that people will Masters out or go ABD, but not outright fail.

3nd0r

20 Years Later....

In the early 1970s, my father was an Ed.D candidate, and his thesis was on the topic of self-pacing computerized instruction (at the high school level). He taught himself the Basic programming language and everything, and was quite confident of success.

His thesis was summarily rejected because "there will NEVER be computers in the classroom" other than postsecondary computer science curriculums.

20 years later computers were everywhere in our schools, and you could go to any big box store and buy educational software similar to what my father had envisioned.

lucky_ducker

The Thief

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While in graduate school, a professor at my university came up with an idea to write his thesis on. He told his advisor, who basically laughed him out of the room and told him it was a ridiculous idea. A year later, he learned that his advisor had stolen his idea and written a paper on it to be published in a major scientific journal. The student (my current professor) then left the program in disgust and just finished with a master's instead. Pretty good physics professor though.

cardinals1392

Eventually....

I knew a PhD student in Math who discovered halfway through her doctorate that the problem she was working on to get her PhD had just been solved by someone else. She was able to work with her advisor to find a way to make the work she applied to that problem be applicable to a similar one. She eventually earned her PhD.

cezxq

dead to rights....

I have a friend who is a tenured professor at a major university. He submitted a proposal to a funding agency. He later discovered that the program manager had not only stolen his idea, but even reused substantial amounts of text from his proposal in a publication. It turned out that the same guy was in the process of being hired by my friend's university for a leadership role.

Even though he had the guy dead to rights, and my friend's position was fairly secure, the politics of the situation made him too fearful to mention it to anyone.

I can only imagine what might happen to a mere student who accused a professor of this kind of misconduct. The sad truth is, even if the student had unimpeachable evidence, I think a lot of people would choose to obstruct and bury it and destroy the student's life rather than burn a colleague.

Rostin

Take 2....

We have a family friend who was in a PhD program that basically got disbanded. Like his advisor and several other faculty members got fired. I believe they ended up giving him two master's degrees, Which is nothing to sneeze at but he did the work for a PhD.

jonahvsthewhale

Not Passable....

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From my experience in grad school, your committee is there every step along the way.

You cant even start until you have an approved thesis prospectus. In this structure, you know if you're ready to defend or not. A member of my cohort was told prior to her thesis defense that she wouldn't pass, so they rescheduled for later.

rughmanchoo

Frozen...

It's exceedingly rare to outright fail a defense as others have mentioned. One person in my department failed their final defense because they froze up and couldn't even answer the easiest questions from their committee. Most people I know of who didn't complete their defense either left voluntarily with master's degrees for various reasons or failed out for silly, preventable reasons like plagiarism or not turning in their written qualifying exams on time.

cdogg300

Really Fool?

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Had a Chinese doctoral student in the program I worked for, who was intentionally putting off and screwing up his thesis process. He only had a student visa, and didn't want to go back to China.

spikyman

Don't be Salty

I know a guy that eventually got his PhD, but it took extra work and encouragement. Poor guy. His adviser left for another university and forbid him from publishing like 2/3 of his work/data. He failed by trying to honor the former adviser's wishes; he was so depressed and going to just accept it. I was freaking livid, and so was everyone else with a graduate degree that heard about it. In the end he presented all his work, got his PhD, and left for a postdoc. His former adviser was told to pound sand. I'm still a little salty.

YourHuckleberry2020

"all but defense"

OP, since you're an undergrad perhaps this is new: no competent advisor will let a student defend without meeting requirements. It would be a huge embarrassment for the advisor and committee to fail a candidate at the defense, because it implies they didn't do their supervisory job prior to the defense. Good advisors are invested in helping people in their group succeed.

Nevertheless, not everyone who starts the program will finish. People can drop out for every imaginable reason. From failing to meet the requirements for a PhD (e.g., not producing original work of substantial impact), to losing interest in the topic, medical problems, having problems with their advisor, getting an industry job, deciding to move...

For completeness: the impact of the original research and publications generated during the PhD are the key to a solid defense. Sometimes people put "all but defense" in their resume. This means they took classes and did not defend. But the point of a doctorate is not to take classes, but rather to contribute to the state of the art.

protastus

Cheers

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I went to post grad school with a few who couldn't or who timed out. They are known as all but dissertation or ABD. They typically find work relating to their masters degree... or they bartend. Those are literally the top two options I've witnessed!

Richardbear70

Years later...

The thesis directly opposed the main premise of the field at the time, the board had a political stake in preserving the status quo. Went to another school and they immediately were just like, yep, here's your PhD. Years later, the original school's board was found to be taking oil money on the side.

heratic_12

Just Fail

Failing the defence (or not being allowed to defend) happens, but rarely. What is far more common is failing the comprehensive exams that most PhD programs require. Comps usually happen before or around the time of proposal approval. They consist (for me at least) a reading list of c.260 books that you have to complete three written exams on and two oral exams. It's not uncommon to fail them and not be allowed to continue.

ryguy_1

Upon Review....

Not me, but my friend at her quals. She walked in, and the committee said, "We've reviewed your work, and we can tell that you won't pass this. Therefore, we're not going to give it to you so that you don't have it on your records that you failed. Withdraw from the program."

I was crushed, and it wasn't even me.

To_a_Green_Thought

Predictable...

Giving a serious answer here...

If your dissertation advisor is any good whatsoever, they will tell you when you are ready to defend and not allow you to defend until that point. For this reason, it is rare that a doctoral candidate ever fails to defend. The only times I have heard of it happening are when a student insists on defending even though their advisor says they are not ready, with predictable results.

w4terfall

I Made It...

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I have always been a horrible procrastinator and did not have the demeanor to complete a PhD. Did great in the coursework first two years then failed out after the third year. Now I make a lot of money as a quant.

Negotiator1226

Give me my backpack...

There was a guy in my program before I started (early 2000's) that had ALL of his data on one flash drive. He lost it when his backpack was stolen. Rumour had it he almost committed suicide after loosing like 3 years of work. He never finished and I think he went into a trade. Probably makes more money this way so good on him.

discostud1515

In the Netherlands...

My grandfather did not have to defend his thesis because he did not have to make one. In the Netherlands one could do doctoral by defending a number of assertions/propositions in front of the professors. So a real oral exam. He studied law, so he had to make a list of about 60 topics in different fields of law (criminal, civil, bankruptcy, merchant, sea etc.) like e.g. 'victims of violence have enough/not enough ways of getting compensation' and was questioned in depth about those. Apparently he did well, got the doctorate, and 25 years later Leiden University gave him a special diploma commemorating his doctorate.

EdjKa1

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They say one man's trash is another man's treasure - and sometimes that saying is pretty literal.

Lots of people build entire businesses picking up cool stuff on bulk-pickup trash day, and upcycling it into something even better that people are willing to pay for.

Sometimes, you might even end up with something pristine and usable right away.

Reddit user JampackedAlborn1976 asked:

What is the most valuable item that you have seen somebody throw away or have found in the garbage?

And for real ... some of these people scored BIG TIME. Like big time. Like really big.

Like Refrigerator Big

just ask leslie jones GIF by Saturday Night Live Giphy

"Our current refrigerator is a double-door one with exterior ice and water dispensers. We got it for free, with absolutely no problems whatsoever. It's just a few years old."

"How we got it? My dad (civil engineer) was doing some work on someone's apartment when they said they had bought a new modern French door refrigerator and that they were just going to discard their current refrigerator."

"My dad simply asked if he could have it.. and they said yes." - SauloJr

Immigrants In Action

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"I immigrated to the US from Brazil when I was 12. And every Saturday, my mom, stepdad, sister and I would go out at night to upper middle class neighborhoods the day before trash pickup to rummage through the garbage they were putting out."

"We found perfectly good TVs, VCRs, microwaves, couches, lazy boys, tables, books and comics, etc."

"I couldn't believe these Americans were throwing out like that. We furnished our entire house with that stuff. The entire Brazilian immigrant community in my town did it. We were flabbergasted." - PhillipLlerenas

With A Note

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"My wife yelled at me that someone put a big TV outside with a note on it. Walked across the street and it was a brand new Samsung 37 inch HDTV."

"They were actually renovating the apartment building and got an upgraded TV. Even had the remote taped to it with batteries, I guess I have really nice neighbors here in NYC." - MadLintElf

Life Hack!

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"If you want high end stuff out of the garbage for free, follow these steps:"

"Pick a city with a large university in it. If it's a school well known for its law programs, or medical, or engineering, all the better."

"Search for luxury apartment complexes that market themselves towards students. Look for things like included shuttle service, pools, fitness centers, etc. The more expensive and swanky the better."

"Figure out when finals week is at the end of Spring semester."

"Dumpster dive at those luxury apartment complexes during that week and the following weekend."

"Very wealthy international students will arrive in the US, fully outfit an apartment with nice furniture, big TVs, audio systems, gaming consoles, you name it, and when the semester ends they just junk it all because they aren't going to fly it back to wherever, and it's too much effort to spend the time selling when they do not care about the money."

"It's a smaller scale phenomenon a little like all the luxury cars abandoned at the airport in Dubai." - whattothewhonow

Literal Gold Treasure

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"I found a gold coin at goodwill for 5 bucks. It was in a case with someone's name and company name."

"It was their gift from the company for retiring. I assume the family threw it out when he died not knowing it was solid gold. It was in a in a thick solid plastic case that had to be cracked opened."

"It literally said 1 oz fine gold on it. I figured 5 bucks was worth the risk it not being real."

"It was a South African KRUGERRAND 1 oz coin. Everyone was just too busy to read it lol."

"Bought it and took it too a pawn shop and sold it for a couple grand." - streetmitch

The Best Day Of My Life

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"When I was a kid, I grew up right outside the Los Angeles area in the suburbs. My stepdad was a garbage truck driver for the city of Beverly Hills."

"I swear in the late 80s and early 90s we'd have so much basically brand new stuff (still in boxes) brought home on a regular basis."

"I'll never forget one day in particular. My stepdad came home and was like 'get ready, come to the car, I'll need your help.' So I go down there and in back seat of his car he had a few large black garbage bags."

"We haul them up to our apartment and he's like 'go ahead, open them.' Inside was what I could only describe as an 80s kids trove of treasures."

"One bag contained just about every Ghostbusters and GI joe toy you can imagine, they were played with but had every little accessory, there was a bunch the playsets and everything."

"In the other bag was pretty much every LEGO of the early 80s sets, still in their original boxes. I was a big LEGO nerd but was totally thrown off by the old school space ones because they looked nothing like the 90s space sets. I think they even said "NASA" the minifig's chests."

"That was like a random day in July, it felt like Christmas. I was 9 years old and it was basically like the best day of my life up to that point." - Zombgief

Who Throws Away Money?

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"A jar full of quarters."

"Annual spring cleaning projects happen in a lot of towns where anyone can put almost anything on the curb and it's taken away for free. It's to stop open dumping or stuff being dumped in ditches."

"Sometimes people deal with estates from winter by just dumping all their grandfather's stuff on the curb for the cleanup to get the house empty immediately. Most often they don't even bother to look at what they are throwing away."

"In 2012 on north road in Akwesasne I found an estate pile that I shuttled back and forth with my bike trailer getting lots of older tools like a scythe, hammers, saws, screwdrivers and wrenches, a 22 rifle with 100 round of ammo, a bunch of ar15 magazines, cast iron cookware, oil lamps, a hand crank food mill with all kinds of accessories, a black raven axe head (worth $100 easily since they are a collectable), and a quart size mason jar full of change mostly quarters."

"That was spring and the sheriffs office did a gun buyback in the fall where I took the mags and got $20 each for them (30 round mags suddenly illegal under the safe act of fall 2012. The buyback was a local political move). I still got the 22 and picked off a lot of woodchuck with it in my gardens." - Bogtrotterso1980

Filing Fever

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"I own a small company which is located directly in front of a state funded program facility. The state decided to have this office shred all of their files as they were going to switch to electronic data (exclusively)."

"We found two of these old rotary filing cabinets outside of their office. They're worth almost $3k each!"

"They just placed them there and we saw them and asked what they planned on doing with them. They said, 'Hmmm.....either donate them or trash them.' The state told them simply to get rid of them."

"We jumped at this and took the two into our already tiny office because there was no way in hell that we were going to let these gems go. (We do use paper files, unfortunately)."

"They wanted to give us two smaller ones but seriously, our office is very small. I made some phone calls and they were picked up immediately by other office workers/friends." - GlitzBlitz

This Sucks - In A Good Way!

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"In the 1990s my moms work had a really nice high end Hoover that stopped working. They threw it out."

"My mom took it home because my dad tinkers and repairs things easily. Turns out since it was a bagged vacuum all the dummies had to do is REPLACE THE BAG."

"Like it never occurred to them to do the most easy and basic step. My parents were excited to have a really upgraded vacuum. Maybe like $500ish." - schweddyboobs

Tiffany's Trash

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"My dad found an old stained glass window laying out by someone's trash. He thought it would look cool hanging in our cabin, so he stopped and grabbed it."

"It sat in our garage for a few years before he looked at it more closely and found "Tiffany and Co." branding on it. He got in touch with some stained glass window dude who figured it was worth about $40k fully restored, so my dad sold it to him for somewhere around $30k." - throwaway_stopdrink

Have you had any awesomely trashtastic treasures? Let us know!