PhD theses are on my radar a lot lately: we think a lot about them on the Graduate Education Council, two of my graduate students are finishing theirs, and an Astronomy Thesis Collection was recently started on Zenodo.
I thought the thesis collection was a nifty idea: while a lot of astronomy theses are already indexed by the fantastic NASA Astrophysics Data Service, often they are not directly available via ADS. The record for my own thesis, for example, links to the paywalled ProQuest version. So of course I figured I should upload mine to the collection. I still had all of the LaTeX files, but I needed to generate a PDF instead of the PostScript version I used to print it 15 years ago. Of course this took longer than I thought it would: as every LaTeX thesis writer knows, it’s the figures that cause you the most grief. But eventually I succeeded and here is the result.
Looking through my thesis, there are some scary aspects. Like the figures, not exactly marvels of graphic design: I think I went to the Edward Tufte seminar pretty late in my graduate career. My prose isn’t fantastic either, although it’s not terrible. Not too long after I defended, the first half of Chapter 5 became a paper, the only one I’ve ever been involved with that was accepted without revision. That also kind of scares me, but the editor of the journal at the time was an expert on the topic, so presumably it’s OK. The reference list is the final scary bit: just under 300 references, I think all typed into a BibTeX file by hand, including a number of articles published in Russian for which all I could read were the data tables (!)
I am happy to say that a lot of what’s in my thesis has been superseded by later work, particularly the Revised Bologna Catalog. I am also happy that some of the clusters that my advisor and I discovered, and first described in the paper linked above, are cataloged with our names attached. John is no longer with us and it’s nice to be involved in one small aspect of how his name and work will live on. Most of all, I am glad that I don’t have to write another PhD thesis. One was certainly enough. If you are finishing yours, I hope you get to feel that way soon, too!