On 21 March 2014, I have defended my thesis against (?) the opponent, Prof. Nando de Freitas from the University of Oxford. Thanks to all those who have attended the defense as well as the after-party (I haven’t had time nor energy to send a separate thank-you note, but will do soon at least by email!)
The defense in Finland is, from the beginning to the end, public, meaning anyone is welcome to the defense. It starts with a candidate (on Friday, it was me) giving a 20-min introductory lecture on the subject on which the candidate conducted research. The opponent gives a general overview on the candidate’s thesis and included publications, followed by an hour-or-two-long main examination where the candidate is asked a number of questions both general and specific to the thesis by the opponent. After the main examination the opponent states a 10-to-20-minute long observation. The custos, or custodian, then closes the defense, which is followed by coffee and cake prepared by the candidate to all those who have attended the defense. In total, the whole procedure takes about 3 hours.
Unlike a popular belief, I did not have a chance to fight any snake, which may be due to the fact that the only snake species in Finland is rather tiny and uninteresting, not to mention that it’s not easy to spot one and prepare for the defense. However, I would advice those in the places with many snakes to be prepared!
One of the most interesting and tough question I had during the main examination was “what is *thinking*?”. I will not reveal how I have answered this question, but will leave it as something that all doctoral candidates in the field of either neuroscience, machine learning or computational statistics be prepared for.