May 5, 2010

KK PhD

After 10 years of graduate school (on top of 4 years of undergrad and a bunch of grade school), I guess I'm done. Everyone said it would be anticlimactic, and it was. My talk went fine - no glitches in the conference call, Skype, or Mikogo. There were nerves, of course, but it definitely could have been worse.

Afterwards, I fielded questions from the audience; there wasn't anything that surprised me or hadn't been asked of me before at some point. I should take Mark's suggestion (which Patrick had suggested a few days before) of a mathematical way to weight the differences in disease between locals and immigrants to see if any more statistical differences are there. We moved the closed defense to a smaller conference room, and I broke out the bribes: cake pops and rice krispie cheese crackers that my darling husband had cooked the night before. (Plus a bunch of cans of Kroger's house-brand Dr. Pepper, which is called Dr. K. The joke was appreciated.)

For those of you interested in what goes on behind closed doors in the defense... I mostly just babbled about isotopes and skeletons and slavery, since I'm not terribly good at thinking and answering on my feet (and therefore why I'm glad I'm a good writer).

Carole wanted to know more about my thoughts on slavery in the Roman Empire. It's not something I had given a lot of thought to, at least not in terms of what I could do to move that research stream forward, because I have only just grazed the surface of the primary and secondary literature on the topic.

Nic wanted me to talk more about heterogeneity and the lack of a one-size-fits-all "Roman" experience, particularly in light of the fact that much of our knowledge of Roman culture comes from the elite. This is something I need to think about in terms of what makes someone "local."

Drew picked up on that and wanted me to talk about how isotopes tell us someone is local and how they might be wrong. He also tried to get me to explain the mathematical error with one of my mixing models, which he introduced by saying, "I'm going to pretend this is a geology defense rather than an anthropology one." Eek. Math is, as Patrick can attest, not my strong suit, even though I wanted to be a mathematician when I was in elementary school. So I flubbed that response miserably; but I do now understand where I was wrong and how I can fix it, which should be pretty easy to do.

Margie and Dale pointed out that the fact that 6 immigrants were 11-15 years old is quite interesting and that I shouldn't back away from some of my interpretations as much as I do. Margie also thought I should look further into differences between the immigrant/local populations at the two sites, since I mostly talked about the pooled populations and individuals: so looking at the level in between would be instructive.

Dale further suggested that there might be a specific time post-immigration that is best for finding immigrants. That is, there is some evidence that enamel (or, at the very least, dentine and surface enamel) uptakes Sr in vivo, so immigrants who have lived in Rome for 20 years could very well appear to be Roman from isotopes. Since I found a lot of immigrant kids, it could mean their enamel is "fresher" - that is, more likely to show immigration because of fewer years of possible Sr uptake. Looking into this from a methodological standpoint, though, would likely require an additional research study with some amount of control over the subjects.

Dale and Drew both really liked the dietary data that indicates immigrants changed their diet upon arriving at Rome: Dale, because he pushed me to do diet even though I didn't want to, and Drew because it confirmed for him that at least 4 people I'd identified as immigrants from Sr/O were indeed immigrants. I was happy that my ingenuity in comparing the bone/enamel carbon values was also appreciated by my committee.

I think both Nic and Carole basically asked me how I would push this research if I had unlimited money and 10 years. I probably mumbled something about isotopes and sampling the Empire, but when I told Sara about this after the defense she said, "Unlimited money? I would build a time machine and go back and ASK the slaves what they thought." That was a better answer than mine.

That's pretty much how it went. I got some good ideas from everyone and some compliments on my research. Many of the comments I can deal with during revisions, some I will just have to keep in mind for the next project. I'm taking a few days away from the diss to deal with the things I've been putting off for weeks, but next week it's on to revisions and submission. As soon as I submit it to the Grad School, I'll post the diss online so everyone who wants to read 400 pages about immigration to Rome can do so.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Alexandra said...

Well done! I've been reading your blog for a while now, often as a source of inspiration (I'm just finishing up my masters in bio anth) :-) Can't wait to read all 400 pages; it sounds really fascinating!

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