Novel Strategies for
Describing RNA Structure

Are you ready for an explosion of RNA excitement?

This past Friday (2/24/2006), I had my Thesis Defense, and I am pleased to say that it went off without a hitch. There were about 35 people in the "crowd", and not counting all of my friends, labmates and what-not, well there must have been at least 5 or 6 people there out of general interest! I am particularily proud of my snazzy outfit, pretty slides, and use of dual, simultaneous, multi-coloured laser pointers.

Yes, you read that last part correctly, red and green laser pointers.

At right you can see my signature slide, the completely intuitive (I'm being somewhat sarcastic here) view of the RNA Doublet Structure-Space.

Now of course the most important aspect of any Thesis Defense is the food, aka the Thesis Treats. If you want to check out what a place like UCSD provides for a Thesis Defense, you can look at the pictures from my Brother's Thesis Defense. Stanford is a private school though, so as you might expect we do things a little differently around here - we make the students provide their own darn food! Of course, for those lucky students that are married, the responsibility quickly falls to the wife/husband, in my case the lovely Juniper. Luckily she had my Mom in tow (and me and my Dad as well), and a quick trip to Costco solved most of our tastiness needs...

Apple Juice, Water, Croissants, Cookies and Coffee - Yum!

I should probably mention that J and Nancy felt that 1 box of cookies would be sufficient. Luckily, armed with my intimate knowledge of the eating habits of graduate students I was able to recommend a second box, for a total of 48 cookies. Every single one was eaten.

Secondary to the treats is the actual Thesis Defense itself. Here's a shot of me in action, which is probably the best picture from the actual talk (taking pictures in a dark room with no flash == no fun). Now might be a good time to thank the Air Conditioning Gods, who cooled the room where I spoke to a rather pleasant temperature, preventing me from sweating my ass off throughout the event - every time I stepped into the hallway I could feel the sweat beading up on my body, kind of like at the Wedding.

Wowing 'em with the title slide

Given that I had over 120 slides, I'm going to spare you all and not post them here - that's a job for another time and another webpage. However, I am going to post the Acknowledgements slide, in an attempt to garner favor. Before you get too excited though, I want to remind you, like I reminded those at my talk, that this is an Acknowledgements slide, and not a Thank You's slide, so if you see yourself featured, it might not be a good thing.

I'm only showing a tiny little thumbnail here - click the darn thing to see it in all its majestic, full-sized glory.

Naturally, the first activity one does after completing one's Thesis Defense, is to eat lots of tasty food. To accomplish this task, we ventured to Darbar for their all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. Juniper has been quite flexible on many things in our marriage, but she did state to me rather clearly one day the following thing, with respect to the post-defense lunch:

"Darbar is non-negotiable"

Well luckily for us our 1 PM-ish arrival put us after the lunch rush, and they even made good on our reservations for 20 people, with the actual 15 of us that arrived able to all squeeze into one long table.

If you look carefully, you can see the top of my head!

I am blessed with many things in life, including having friends with a sense of humour. As such, the cake at my departmental Thesis Defense celebration read as follows (I'm blaming Jeannie for this one!):

Amazing. Sykes did it!!

The punctuation here is key - notice the period after the word "Amazing". An optimist might otherwise have read it as "Amazing Sykes", but the addition of that solitary dot leaves little doubt as to the true intention of the cake decorator.

As you can see in the foreground of the shot at Darbar, I had my parents in tow for the Thesis Defense, and the post-defense celebration weekend. While the general consensus amongst other people was that having your parents at your thesis defense is odd, I rather enjoyed it - and so did they. They do always come down around this time of year anyways, and it certainly seems more exciting that simply sitting around watching me and a couple bajillion other people walk across the stage while dressed up all silly.

Mom, Dad and Me outside of Darbar - notice my fancy outfit!

If you notice the text on this page being in a weird Sans-Serif font that you aren't used to seeing, that means your browser is correctly displaying Trebuchet MS. This is only appropriate since it's the font I used on all the slides for my Thesis Defense. If you aren't seeing it, while I recommend you go download it since it's actually quite pretty. Evidently a Sans-Serif font like this is recommended for better legibility of headlines and short bits of text, making presentations an ideal forum for the use of such fonts. Paragraphs of text like this and the others on the page are probably better off with a Serif like Times New Roman, but what the heck, eh?