Thursday, May 11, 2017

Best Present for an Academic Mom - Successful Doctoral Dissertation Defense of My 20th PhD Student

Yesterday, was a special day - my 20th PhD student, whose dissertation committee I chaired, successfully defended her doctoral dissertation at the Isenberg School of Management.

Given that Sunday is also Mother's Day it was also the best present for an Academic Mom!

Shivani Shukla successfully defended her dissertation in Management Science entitled: Game Theory for Security Investments in Cyber and Supply Chain Networks.

Her committee included: Professor Adams Steven of my department, Professor Hari Balasubramanian of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at UMass Amherst, and Professor Eric Gonzales of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UMass Amherst.

Shivani's co-authored research has been published in such top journals as the European Journal of Operations Research, the Annals of Operations Research, and Transportation Research E, as well as in a book chapter in the book, Computation, Cryptography, and Network Security, published by Springer.

She gave an hour presentation on her thesis, which is 200 pages, and then the audience, and, subsequently, committee members, asked her questions. It was a pleasure to sign off on her thesis, which she has worked hard on. She even taught multiple courses this year, including one online, while being on the job market and interviewing. Yes, doctoral studies certainly prepare one for life as an academic, in which we juggle multiple tasks and roles and are expected to excel in the areas of: research, teaching, and service. She also served as President of our award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter.

Even though it was during final exams, she had a great turnout of supporters, including fellow doctoral students. Some had already left before we took the photo below.

Then a wonderful surprise occurred. I had been sworn to secrecy but it was a surprise for Shivani. The university in California where she will start her new academic life as a tenure-track Assistant Professor sent her a vase of fresh flowers! This was so incredibly thoughtful. In all my years of being a professor I have never seen this happen at a defense - that a university at which the candidate will become a professor sends a gift and even times the gift for arrival at the defense. (Of course, one assumes that it will be successful.)
We were all very excited to see Dr. Shivani Shukla open the box! Then I posed with Shivani and my other doctoral students.
Off to lunch we marched, my treat, to Judie's, which is a fabulous restaurant in downtown Amherst, known especially for its popovers. It was very special because all committee members could also attend and I thank them for their service and collegiality and also support of Shivani. We were so busy talking and enjoying the lunch that I did not take any photo!

Afterwards, I treated the ladies to dessert at Henion - chocolate covered walnut balls - heavenly!
And, early this morning, I received the loveliest message from Shivani's father in India, which stated, in part: In India any achievement of an individualistic nature, be it in academics, Philosophy, literature , Music or spiritualism is always invariably dedicated to "Guru"(literally meaning destroyer of darkness, source of enlightenment, -The Master) & the "Shishya" (The student) considers this achievement as the blessings from the "Guru", which eventually empowers her to embark upon a new journey seeking even greater heights in her chosen field ... I would like to thank you for all your efforts  in bringing her to this higher pedestal of learning.

Is there any profession more rewarding, energizing, or inspiring than academia?! I honestly cannot think of one.

I am also a Mom and was thrilled receive a great Mother's Day card (early!) from my daughter who is now enrolled in a doctoral program in STEM and that  also makes me very happy!