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Dissertation Recap

by Jason Moore — last modified Aug 28, 2012 07:09 AM

I've finally finished my dissertation and self published it online. It is even mostly reproducible.

I've finally finished my dissertation. I turned in the the official version on August 21st. My school has a tradition of ringing a bell and announcing that you are now a doctor, which is followed by the office employees clapping in the Grad Studies office when someone completes their PhD. My roommates and friends were talking about how small the bell was and how the graduate didn't even get to ring it at dinner the night before I had to do this. It is actually pretty anti-climactic for years of toil. It would feel great to whack a giant gong after finishing. So the conversation at dinner started to transform into my friends coming along with me carrying an assortment of instruments, bells, and noise makers. I wasn't sure any of them would actually show up the next morning but at 10 am sharp folks started appearing at my house. Robbie had his oboe, Amanda had bicycle bells, and David with some Tibetan chimes. We bicycled over to Mrak hall to find Lauren and Kentaro waiting for us. I went in and met with Amelia who also happened to be the first person I'd interacted when checking out Davis. She was our department's grad student coordinator my first couple years here. She checked over the forms and gave me a piece of paper saying I was a doctor and we proceeded to the main desk to "ring the bell". She rang the bell, announced me, and folks started clapping as I pulled the Butterpat conch shell from my bag and gave it a mighty blow. Folks popped their heads out of their office doors as the rest of the crew bounded in the main door playing all of the instruments. I think the office appreciated it and I was super happy to having all my friends there giving me support this last day (they've put up with my anti-social dissertation finishing behavior for quite a while now).

But that little story isn't what this post is all about. I also completed the longest thing I've ever written in my life that covers aspects of the work I've done since the beginning of 2006 on bicycle dynamics and control. I'm pretty happy with the result. I met several of my goals:

  • Instant online open access publishing. I've used the Sphinx documentation system for web and paper publishing and released the text under a Creative Common Attribution license.
  • Detailed documentation of all of my bicycle work. I was able to include the majority of the work I did over the past seven years.
  • Reproducibility. Almost all of the figures, tables, and results can be reproduced with the included open source code (BSD licensed).
  • Shared data. I've about gotten all the data cleaned up and shared publicly for reuse. If you can't find some particular data, then let me know and I'll dig it up and post it.
  • Memoir. I've included prefaces to most Chapters that reflect on the history of the ideas, who was involved, and how the projects developed to put more "human" in the text than typical modern science writing.

All this was a lot of work, but I'm happy I pushed through it. My first git commit to the dissertation was on September 28, 2011 and I only took a break this summer for about a month and a half to go to conferences and do some traveling. So it took about nine and half months to put the dissertation together. This included a lot of data analysis for the System ID chapter and lots of polishing of previous years' work. I was able to focus solely on the dissertation by dropping all of my beloved extracurricular activities, but I struggled with eliminating casual internet browsing till the very end (probably my only addiction in life).

The final product in both HTML and PDF form can be viewed at http://moorepants.github.com/dissertation/ and the source code downloaded from https://github.com/moorepants/dissertation. Additional material can be found on this website (although some organization still needs to be done).

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