There are a lot of really great schools in the Triangle.

That’s probably why I keep meeting people who seem to be in a never-ending state of schooling…. and by that I mean Graduate students. As someone who lives by schedules and timelines, I don’t know how Grad students manage the stress of not knowing… I’m talking about the PhD students who don’t know how long they’ll be in school, they just constantly work and study and eventually they are told, “Yes, great, well done, we’ll let you leave now!”. Now I thoroughly enjoyed my time in undergrad… but with that there was a set graduation date from the start, and I happily created my class schedule and worked toward that knowing I would be done in 4 years (ok, 3 1/2).

Ever since I met Catherine she has been working on her PhD at Duke University. She and our other PhD seeking friends have taught me many things, including not to ask when graduation is (thanks for finally telling me to quit asking!). From an outsider’s perspective, it seemed like they were just chugging along, slaving away for their labs until such a time in the future when they may be allowed to obtain this mythical PhD. I consider myself a pretty flexible, go-with-the-flow kind of person, but something this big? A vague “5-7 years from now” time frame? That would drive me crazy!

When Catherine was finally given the green light last month to defend her thesis, things seemed to suddenly sped up. After years of hard work the fabled PhD was finally in sight! Now a mad-dash to get that thesis in order and rehearse the defense! Again, this is from the viewpoint of an observing friend. I’m not sure how PhD candidates view the passage of time, but it sure seemed to jump suddenly from slow and steady to full-speed ahead.

I say all this to explain my excitement surrounding this fantastic event.

Catherine’s parents live out of state, and they knew it’d be tough to plan from so far away. So they contacted me and I happily got to work on the logistics. The thesis defense itself was on a Friday afternoon, so first order of business was to get the word out and invite friends and family. Not going to lie, most of what she said in the defense went way over my head, so I won’t attempt to summarize (I’m sure my synopsis would be hilarious for Catherine to read). But it was obvious that Catherine knew her stuff (her stuff being fly brains), the smart folks in the room seemed to follow, her committee gave their approval, and the festivities commenced!


Best Thesis Defense

After the successful dissertation we held a celebratory dinner for visiting family.

The Little Dipper had us in their private dining space, which worked really well for our group of 15. They started everyone off with a cheese course (my favorite is Cheddar Ale), which guests enjoyed while mingling and toasting the new PhD. Then guests took their seats for salad, followed by delicious meats and veggies dipped in fresh local broths. If you’re only going to do one course at The Little Dipper though, I highly recommend their dessert fondue. I keep changing my mind on my favorite, so you’ll just have to try them all yourself! For this event we selected 4 different chocolate fondues, so everyone was up and moving around to taste them all.


Dinner menu



After all that science and fondue, it was late and everyone was tired (especially Catherine. Defending is exhausting). But we anticipated this, so the big after-party was planned for the following evening. Saturday night we decked the house out in Duke blue, brought in tasty food from Chapel Hill’s Mediterranean Deli, and filled the place with friends!

Balloom walk way

dinner party 1

Med Deli hummus

Med Deli Catering


I had SO much fun planning this party, and seeing everyone come together to celebrate Catherine’s achievement, being PHinally Done! Thanks for letting me plan and partake in the fun!

Thanks to The Little Dipper for an amazing dinner party! And Med Deli for their delicious Mediterranean fare at the house party.