I am the Doctor: Viva Survivor Soundtrack

Guest post for Festival of Doctoral Research 2020


Reaching the milestone of your PhD viva voce is a momentous occasion: years of intellectual toil through a personal and professional journey culminating in a final hurdle of defence “by live voice” (translation of the Latin). For doctoral candidates and examiners facing this moment in the current pandemic lockdown context, this experience is magnified through the lens of a Zoom camera, as doctoral defences are moved to online video conferencing. As this THE article highlights, this creates additional challenges to an already very challenging occasion, but it can allow for a more inclusive and communal experience in some cases. However, as Dr Fiona Scott, who recently underwent an online viva reflected with us recently (congratulations Fiona!) “the post-viva Zoom fatigue is real” and it’s not always easy to celebrate with departmental colleagues and support networks online.

So, to celebrate the achievements of all Sussex PhD graduates and candidates who have recently defended or are about to defend their thesis online, we have come up with a celebratory ‘Viva Survivor Soundtrack’ on Spotify, which you can access here https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2smcWd7B1HKsoUDR0YPl3V.


The track listings have been crowdsourced from recent Sussex doctoral graduates as well as a few recommendations of my own, fondly remembering the time I danced elatedly to “Doctorin’ the House” and “Dr Beat” (perhaps showing my age here!) after my own viva a couple of years ago.

The first track on the list, ‘I am the Doctor’, from the Doctor Who soundtrack composed by Murray Gold, was recommended by Sussex Physics doctoral graduate Dr Jesús Rubio, who recalls playing and sharing it:

right after passing my viva to amuse some of loved ones, friends and myself as I was sharing the happy news of having become a doctor. And I am sure that I will get into it again as soon as my graduation (now sadly postponed) approaches. 

Apart from the joke of the title, the thing about this type of soundtrack, and equally powerful instrumental music, is that it helps to trigger my motivation, imagination and creativity, something that made the end of my PhD journey (and really the whole of it) an even more epic experience than what it already was. 

The last track on the playlist was recommended by Sussex Psychology doctoral graduate Katie Boyd:

My labmates played me “Good as Hell” by Lizzo to pump me up just before my viva, and it’s such a happy memory! The end of the song was still playing when my examiner knocked on the door, everyone laughed, and it diffused so much tension that had built up over the day.

We’d love to hear your recommendations for the Hive Scholars Viva Survivor Playlist! Please email them to us at  researchhive@sussex.ac.uk or tag the @sussexreshive on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtags #VivaSoundrack #VivaSurvivor #PhDchat to be part of this conversation.

Good luck and congratulations to all imminent and recent viva survivors and remember you are The Doctor!

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