What's your stance on putting a meme into a dissertation defense?

What's your stance on putting a meme into a dissertation defense?


If your partner's defence is going well, it can lighten up the mood for some, but it can backfire with others. It depends on the committee members as some might be more conservative and think it is unprofessional while others might think it's funny and shows good character. However, if his defence isn't going well, it can quickly backfire as some committee members (regardless of if they are conservative or not) might think he is making a joke out of the defence process and some might go as far as to ''lecture'' him on it. I have seen it happen with poorly performing PhD students trying to make jokes during meetings with their supervisors. Was awkward as hell and then their voice was all shaking. Also, if the committee members are very challenging, your partner might end up being too stressed to make the joke and skip over it or just unintentionally forget about it. The issue is that if the image still shows up in the background, it could be awkward not to mention anything as it is very unconventional and a committee member might bring it up, which can screw up his focus (especially if he forgets about the upcoming joke). I don't think it's cringy, but would not do it because of what is at stake during the defence and I would be afraid of something going wrong or the joke falling flat which would result in me screwing up things. Also, personally, I don't get the references of the meme, so it might fall flat if someone in the committee doesn't get it either, but the general idea of a meme inserted in a serious conversation could be enough to be funny. So, if your partner is confident in his abilities to pass his defence without issues and the committee members are open-minded, then sure, he could go for it.


Agree. Hard yes. One meme, and make sure that it’s super understandable. Do some focus group testing to make sure it’s obvious.


Very much agree here. The senior graduate student in my lab about 4 years ago decided to fill their seminar presentation with memes, I’m talking one every three slides. Some were inside jokes amongst just the lab members. People stopped laughing after like the second meme, and the senior faculty did not receive the presentation well at all.




>To anyone else in science who uses star wars/ star trek references all the time: Just because we're scientists doesn't mean we like sci fi. These are different interests. Please understand this. Yes! I did a physics undergrad and have never seen either. Well, I saw one star wars and didn't enjoy it. It seems to surprise people all the time.


I think it entirely depends on the committee overseeing their defense. I wouldn’t mind to be honest, I like humor in times of high stress!


I think it depends on the climate of the committee, really. I like to make my presentations more interesting and less mundane with images, and sometimes memes, but I did leave them out of my defense.


Please do not do that. A dissertation defense is formal, serious procedure. Use puns or some light humor that is related to the theme or field or research. But be serious. I used interesting quotes as an introduction to presentation.


I disagree. You are essentially saying that the dissertation defense is static and has not evolved. There was a time when neither puns or light humour were allowed. The dissertation itself is evolving from the standard 5 chapter slog to an article based standard which is far more practical. It's a matter of context. Does the student know their committee well enough to judge how a meme would go over? If not, then it is unadvisable. If the answer is yes, all will probably enjoy and have a laugh.


I agree with you. It depends on the committee. But I am talking from my experience, as I was a part of quite a few dissertation defenses and numerous MSc defenses. For example, the committee even though were people who liked a bit of humour, did not like the humor during the defense, and even warned the student to not do that, as it is a formal procedure. Maybe one day using memes in the defense will be acceptable. As you said, this kind of things evolve.


Depends on the committee, their age, and where they come from. Also, the joke. As a physics PhD, I've seen a few dissertations with an xkcd comic in it, but all were very specifically related to that field and were done in the first 2 or 3 slides of a public defense.


Would not recommend, but you can always send me memes. The darker, the better


I work with a lot of folks that study memes/other forms of digital communication and we do shit like this all the time lol. I think it depends on the scholar, the committees, the project, etc.


My labmate just defended and opened it with a meme. No problems, she passed with flying colors (STEM PhD in US). I'd say it depends on the committee.


I think it's a little different opening with a meme vs. putting it somewhere in the middle of the presentation. In the intro it serves as an icebreaker, in the middle it just breaks up the flow of your talk.


bad idea; verbal humor is better as opposed to memes (i had verbal humor tailored to my presentation for my qual exam and that went well, it did not involve any visual memes or something like that)


I wouldn't do that at all, but I'm talking for my field and my university (engineering). They probably won't get it since they are older too.


It's gone over well every time I've seen it done (probably about half of the defenses I've watched over the last ten years).


If the committee members are very old they might not get it. Or approve of it.


Jokes, used well, are great. Most members of my lab have jokes and memes in many of our talks, including defenses. It goes over great, and people sometimes remember the best ones years later. A huge fraction of the award-winning talks I've seen made clever use of humor. The specific joke you describe is OK but not great. It's not offensive, it's brief, it moves the talk along. However, it's a distraction that doesn't contribute to the overall message. Ask yourself, "if the one thing people remember from my talk is the joke (because they *will*), is that good?"






This is touchy... Defense seminars are often so dry, a little humor can be appreciated. But not everyone understands memes or would find it appropriate. Unless it's a perfect example of a concept that unequivocally helps the audience understand your research better, I'd save it for a different presentation.


If I were him, I would not risk it. In my grad thesis presentation which was given over Zoom due to the pandemic, I did not include any memes in the presentation itself but added some toward the end of the slides after the entire presentation ended so once my committee met in a separate room to deliberate, I showed those memes to the audience for some comic relief during the break. It worked fine. None of the committee members except for my advisors saw the memes.


There don’t seem to be any substantial pros, but lots of potential cons. Don’t do that.


Pretty cringey IMO. Maybe in a lab meeting, but in a defence...


absolutely not


A defence culminates all the years of study and is on par with a once in a lifetime achievement that the majority of people cannot claim. Its not the time for jokes. As an examiner it might make me question whether the same attitude was applied to the research.


Well, it's not a meme more like a pun. I think it isn't the place for it. Given it's the pinnacle of a huge effort, it makes it cheap without reason.


Depends on the group.


Cultural references only work if the audience is also in-the-know. I personally wouldn’t.


Cringe and inappropriate


I don’t see this particular joke as having much upside, but it definitely has a downside risk. I’d vote no.


You really shouldn't go out of your way to make a joke here. Deliberately including a meme falls in that category. At the end of the day, your goal is to graduate. A meme will not help you graduate. No reasonable committee member will graduate you based on a meme. In fact it may make you look unprofessional to committee members. Adding a meme is all downside with 0 upside at all. The expected return is negative. Just do what you're supposed to do and get out with the degree. But feel free to dm me some memes




I'm in marketing, and there is a professor here who is famous for singing during his presentations. So, the cringe wouldn't bother me. But I don't see the point of including a meme like that. What does it add to the presentation? I would understand if the meme had a purpose, like a light introduction to the research question, or something like that.


Cringe, but see no problem


DEW IT! Screw those who think otherwise. I was totally thinking of putting a giovanni giorgio meme in mine, the one where the octopus gets sucked in.


I did my defense three weeks ago and included two memes in my presentation… do what you want it’s a celebration of your work. I few laughs never hurt anyone


Is he doing a practice run for his labmates before Friday? It’s an easy thing to include, get feedback on, then remove if they aren’t into it


There are three rules to oral presentations: 1) Know your audience 2) Don't try to be funny 3) Don't panic and accidentally blurt out the truth This is the presentation of a student's master piece, the culmination of years of research, and their request for admission into the academy. A meme is a huge risk. Would they put a meme in a conference talk?


Maybe put it on the last slide or something so if things go well he can proceed with showing the meme otherwise probably nah. Imo one or two is fine but anything more than that will probably backfire. If I were him I wouldn't chance it because PhD defense is a serious and formal thing and there really isn't much to gain but with a lot to lose.


I think he's the only one that can answer this. He knows his committee and is the one with the relationship. I think it's best to just support him and congratulate him after.


If you're going to do this, I strongly advise caution such as seeing if you can learn if your committee members will comprehend the visuals. It is entirely possible that your committee members are aware of ST:TNG and/or Jerry McGuire. If your partner still wants to go through with it, hopefully there is still enough time to get this intel by the time of the defense to know if it won't hurt, your partner shouldn't do it.


Don’t do it


Thumbs down.


Just do it. Get the PhD and gain style points. Make sure the meme is understandable. In an age where 90% are wannabe serious, choose to be humorous. Just don’t screw up with the defense. Edit: Don’t try hard about it and be authentic.


I had one in mine and got a laugh. I personally don't think you always have to be serious


I included a meme as the last slide of my DDS thesis defense, i think thats a safer option than putting it in the middle as it can offset the tone of professionalism. But if he can do it with confidence and it's not an offensive meme i dont see why not


Is it a public or private defense? If it's public, it might be good in the first few slides, but after you get into the depths of it, stay serious. A lot of people in academia are part of the old guard and are very conservative. Not 'taking your defense seriously' might imply to them that you didn't take the research seriously, and might open them up to tougher or more intense questions.


don't do it! too risky. I have a colleague who does this a lot and it stands too high of a chance of missing the mark. seriously, it's not worth the risk of awkwardness! Also they're simply never that funny!


In my opinion it depends on the mood... What's their relationship like? Is everyone "cool" with your partner? I had a couple of, not memes, but funny/light slides... But I knew that the folks in my committee would either chuckle or not care about it. Ultimately it comes down to your partner... If they think have any part of themselves that think it could backfire, then it's a no on the meme. The dissertation defense is such an important step and nobody really goes up to defend if their adviser don't think they'll pass. So it's kind of a weird thing... It's a very important thing to do and one should take it seriously, but it's also a foregone conclusion and one should enjoy it as the last step to graduate... I had way more fun leaving acronyms and subliminal messages in the dissertation text itself lol... I left some jokes there that only a handful of people understood and it was so fun to share it with them. Also, for all its worth I think that show me the data meme is pretty unfunny and overused lol...


I think it’s cute. I got it. Think others would, too. Two of my committee members would love that. One would just be blah about it. I’d do it.