The final product! Getting my bound PhD thesis back

Look what I picked up today! My bound PhD thesis!

bound PhD thesis

I got lots of comments about the colour:
“It’s red!”
“That’s a very bold colour.”
“Wow, red! With gold letters!”

Yup. It’s red. The colour scheme was based on the book that first piqued my interest in Biochemistry:

Next to each other on the shelf it would look kind of like this:

Well, I guess I have other books, too. It would maybe look more like this:


I also found some old lab-themed photos on my cell phone, from last year. Here is one of my lab books in action. (“Action” for a lab book means being covered in post-it notes, I guess.)


Now, I know that if you got this thesis in your hands, you’d flip to the acknowledgements right away. Here they are in PDF form (If you’ve ever talked to me at all, even just online, check out the second last paragraph of the pdf – you’re all implicitly in there, and as the last people I thank right before my family!) And here is the start of the acknowledgments, with a quote from one of my favourite books.

” ‘The Eighth Square at last!’ she cried as she bounded across, and threw herself down to rest on a lawn as soft as moss, with little flower-beds dotted about it here and there.” – Lewis Carroll (“Through the Looking-Glass”)

This thesis is the final result of six and a half years of research and lab work. As you look at the figures and graphs on its pages, you will learn what I did while I was sitting in the tissue culture room, what I thought about while reading papers, pipetting or peering down microscopes. But the western blots and confocal images will not tell you who where there with me, encouraging me along the way, even at the moments when I thought I’d never get anywhere with my experiments. These first few pages are for them.

Not in the acknowledgments (because she can’t read) was my cat Penny, who I’ve had the pleasure of living with for the majority of my PhD. But she was most certainly the “person” who was there the whole time – even tonight while I took photos of my fancy bound thesis. Check the extended entry to see what I have to deal with every day, and why it was really hard to take these photos…




Eva Amsen is a writer, science communicator and blogger, interested in the overlap between science and music, art, pop culture, and daily life. Portfolio | Twitter | Contact

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66 Responses

  1. steffi suhr says:

    Penny is wonderful. And red is an excellent colour.

  2. Frank Norman says:

    I love the photo of your bookshelf. I think we should have more such photos here!
    I couldn’t see stains on the thesis from all the blood sweat and tears that I’m sure must have been in ood supply throughout those 6 years? Did you wash them off?
    I agree that Penny looks lovely, and a nice foil to the bold red colour.

  3. Heather Etchevers says:

    Whoo hoo, Eva!
    Are people now archiving their Ph.D.’s on a regular basis on the Internet? Is that institution-specific or more general?
    Photos of bookshelf (in lab, to start). Hmm (looks for webcam software installation disk).

  4. Mike Fowler says:

    Congrats, Eva! I remember getting my leather bound copies. I felt like a proper grown up person. Mine was a sombre black binding though. For those of you saucy enough to dare looking, here’s the -naked- plastic bound pre-submission version[1], beside my undergrad degree, which is also ensconced in a fashionable red cover.
    _I dun it, Ma!_
    Heather: All the theses published in Helsinki, and many published across the Nordic universities are also published as an _e-thesis_, which can often be found through universities’ library websites. “For example”:
    fn1. The leather bound version is propping up a cupboard in my parents’ house.

  5. Heather Etchevers says:

    Here you go, Frank. An antique version of Eva’s bookshelf – see that edition of Molecular Biology of the Cell? and the homemade thesis bindings? (and in antique resolution):

  6. Richard P. Grant says:

    I put my thesis on the internet in 1996…

  7. Frank Norman says:

    Thanks! Very nice again.
    Re. e-theses, yes it is a growing trend. “Virginia Tech”: are the leaders but the British Library is launching its “EThOS”: service. There are thorny copyright issues that people lose sleep over, but I don’t these are so acute in science theses.

  8. Kristi Vogel says:

    Congratulations, Eva! I love the photos of the cat tail on the thesis.
    Here’s a photo of my bird book shelf, _sans_ thesis (the subject of which was neural crest cells in avian embryos). I don’t possess a bound copy.

  9. Eva Amsen says:

    I also have an electronic one – that one is going online in June I think, on the university server. I still want to fix something in there…
    I never actually used MBOC, because I didn’t do Biology until my PhD and by then I learned everything from articles. But the cheap bookstore in my neighbourhood (more on that elsewhere much later) had a copy for $10 for sale, and this *is* the edition I *would* have had if I had done Biology in undergrad and used the book.

  10. Stephen Curry says:

    Congrats Eva – your choice of colour is very appropriate for “Red Nose Day”: here in the UK…

  11. Eva Amsen says:

    (My mom just e-mailed me her congratulatory comments on this post. I feel a little weird for having put the pictures online before showing her the thesis on webcam, or even mailing her copy…)

  12. Richard Wintle says:

    Well done you. Funny, *my* copy of Stryer is blue, but I am old. It’s the third edition, whereas yours is the fourth. And my thesis is kind of a muddy brown colour, the result of going for an antique leather book look, but using whatever non-leather material these things are actually bound in (I suspect yours and mine were done by the same person). The red was a good choice!
    You realize, of course, that I’m going to have to take a photo of my bookshelf now, don’t you? 😉

  13. Richard Wintle says:

    Oh, and my thesis is also online, although RPG beat me to it by a few years, since mine was PDF’d after the fact by the National Library or whoever it is that archives these things.
    If you’re having trouble getting to sleep at night, here it is “right here”: Warning – flippin’ large PDF. Other warning – very boring. Last warning – the scans of the figures are atrociously awful.

  14. Heather Etchevers says:

    KRISTI! You have a copy of THE Romanoff!! Oh, *duh!!* I know your work. I can’t believe it didn’t cross my mind on this of all websites.
    I’ll be in Paris on Tuesday and maybe will photograph the _other_ bookshelf. All the stuff I didn’t want to bother lugging with me to Toulouse.

  15. Kristi Vogel says:

    @ Heather – We had a lab copy of Romanoff, when I was a grad student. The copy in the photo above was obtained fairly recently, in one of my scavenging expeditions. During that same expedition, I also acquired a 1962 edition of Roberts Rugh’s _Experimental Embryology_, as well as a binder containing the photos for the Hamburger and Hamilton chicken embryo stages.
    I LOVE scavenging. 🙂

  16. Åsa Karlström says:

    Eva> Oh so nice!! Lovely book cover and wodnerful acknowledgement. We(I) got to choose the cover photo if one wanted one, but the book is not hard cover but rather a “soft cover with a standard format” (although the department/uni pays for at least 100 copies ….) That version of Stryer was my best friend and I dragged it back and forth for the first lectures in Biochem. (hence why it is now now red but rather pinkish in coulour.)
    Heather> When I defended it was norm that the thesis (or the shorter thing/summary of about 30-50 pages in front of the papers) was published in a pdf ( _sort of like Mike referred to as an e-thesis_ ). In comparison to the printed book though, the pdf is without the manuscripts/published papers since there are copyright and research secrets etc.
    Example here at the “library at SLU”: No front cover pics in there though, which I find a bit sad.

  17. Sabbi Lall says:

    Congrats! I like that the reds are in anti-alphabetical order (Stryer, Amsen, Alberts?)? Looks great though- let us know when it goes live on the University server!

  18. Cath Ennis says:

    Congratulations! And I love the photos.
    Everyone at my institute turned straight to the acknowledgements page too. I specifically thanked everyone who’d brought cake to work during my PhD, which went down pretty well.
    My thesis is black, like Mike’s – and has the same University of Glasgow logo inside. I beat you by 8 months, Mike! Unfortunately it’s too tall to stand upright in the dresser we use as a book case, so it’s flat on its side with the atlas, dictionaries and art books, and next to the whisky.

  19. Maxine Clarke says:

    Congratulations, Eva – I am sure you and your mom are both very proud of you!
    My Stryer is blue, too, Cell Biology by Pollard et al. is reddish brown. Other than that, my red books are all things with titles like “Trawling. The Rise and Fall of the British Trawl Fishery” and “Fauna Britannica”. Both of these would look very nice next to your thesis, come to think of it.

  20. Richard P. Grant says:

    My first Stryer was … yellow? But it only lasted a year and I got the blue one, and then I got the red one.
    And congrats Eva—I realize I hadn’t said that.

  21. James Hardy says:

    Congrats Eva! You seem to have the colors right, but looks like it’s not thick enough?

  22. Stephen Curry says:

    I’m partial to the current _blue_ 6th edition of Stryer. There’s a rather fine illustration on page 1005…

  23. John Dupuis says:

    Congrats, Eva! The red is very Canadian, of course. The red you’ve chosen is also the York U colour too 😉

  24. Richard P. Grant says:

    Stephen—any chance of a scan of that?

  25. Stephen Curry says:

    The book is at work and I have qualms about posting an illustration even if it is taken from “my work”: I have fewer qualms about stretching copyright on Nature’s own network. The illustration in Stryer is of this structure, which actually looked a lot better here:

  26. Richard P. Grant says:

    Oh! Prettiness!
    That does my geek heart good.

  27. Sabbi Lall says:

    Lovely (I’m a little biased though)! And I’ll check page 1005 when I get home. I’m a blue Stryer lass- I left my Stryer in the UK when I moved (it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase), but (joy!) found a blue Stryer on the street in a pile of books last year.

  28. Erika Cule says:

    Congratulations Eva!
    And, I don’t mean to throw the cat among the pigeons, but I feel compelled to ask. Does everyone _really_ like Stryer?
    (Mine is the green one – fifth edition)

  29. Eva Amsen says:

    It was my favourite text book in undergrad chemistry! Everything else I had was easy (Zumdahl – pictured – would have gotten rid of it but my edition is autographed) or scary/hard (physical chemistry, Atkins) or deadly boring (some analytical chemistry books). I only kept organic chem, physiology, and Stryer. Oh, and math, apparently. The bioinformatics and mol. bio. books on my shelf are all things I got later.
    I did, however, fail an oral exam on Stryer once. I had to study the entire book and take two exams on it (half of the book per exam) and the first time I did really well, but the second time the professor kept asking me about the same page over and over and over and I just couldn’t remember that page at all, so I failed. I redid the exam a month later, but took another exam in the mean time so I didn’t study extra for Stryer at all. The second time he asked different things and I aced it. He said “I can tell you spent some more time on it now.” No, I did not. I still knew as much as I did the first time, but he just didn’t ask me about the one page I hadn’t read the margins of. That’s not the book’s fault, though. Nor mine. I’m glad it didn’t show up on any official documents (The professor didn’t hand in the grade when I was failing the oral, but basically rescheduled it and considered it an unofficial practice exam. The benefits of being in a small department for undergrad…)
    Before that, I had studied about half of the book for a first year biochem course, when I was still planning on being an environmental scientist and saving the planet. The book won me over with a question about Eeyore and Candide and chemotaxis. It was Stryer that made me switch my interest from environmental science to Biochemistry.
    Later, I studied the entire book a _third_ time for the GRE exam to go to Canada.

  30. Bill Hooker says:

    Congratulations, Eva!

  31. Erika Cule says:

    Ah, I had forgotted that your undergraduate degree was chemistry (not biochemistry).
    For my undergraduate degree Stryer and MBotC were the course texts. I was not alone in finding other biochemistry text books (than Stryer) easier to use. I like to have more than one text book anyway. If I don’t understand something explained one way there is a chance I might understand it if I read a different explanation. (This method does make for a heavy book bag though!)
    This preference for other books than Stryer was why I wondered whether really he has such universal appeal.

  32. Frank Norman says:

    My impression was that for a long time Stryer was the _only_ biochemistry text book? Now there are more competitors. Erika, for interest, what was your preferred biochem text?

  33. Erika Cule says:

    I liked Lehninger’s “Principles of Biochemistry”: and others in my year preferred “Voet & Voet”: (The latter is good for what we called Biological Chemistry – kinetics, thermodynamics and so on).
    I had an interesting discussion with my Grandfather, who worked in academia, about textbooks. He said that in his experience his students did not get on so well with American textbooks and often got on well with books by German authors or translated from the German. I have found this reflects my experience, which I found curious.

  34. Kristi Vogel says:

    I prefer Lehninger as well; that was the required text for the undergraduate biochemistry course I took. There wasn’t perfect overlap between the biochemistry courses at my undergraduate and graduate universities, and therefore I had to take part of the course in graduate school, where Stryer was the chosen textbook. Nevertheless, I went back to Lehninger.

  35. Samuel Frankel says:

    Congratulations Eva! And that is an extremely _sharp_ looking thesis. Excellent choice and, I’m sure, excellent work contained within.

  36. Richard Wintle says:

    I had no experience with anything but Stryer, but I am not really a biochemist _per se_. For me, Stryer seemed good – basic enough, but in-depth enough at the time.
    However, since 3rd year biochemistry, I’ve barely looked at it… still on my shelf though. 🙂

  37. Sabbi Lall says:

    Yup, those were the 2 camps when I was an undergrad (Stryer-ists and Lehninger-ers, it was pretty much Montagues v Capulets without the love part). But as Richard says by year 2 we didn’t really use Stryer any more, so it’s a nostalgia thing.

  38. Henry Gee says:

    Congratulations on your -baby joy- new arrival.

  39. Matt Brown says:

    Congratulations, Eva.
    I never considered that you might tell the age of a biochemist by the hue of his/her Stryer. I’m one of the blue generation. The red edition was always a bit new-fangled for me. RNAi? Wassat?

  40. Philip Johnson says:

    Red! Nice! Are we allowed to choose whichever colour we want? (I still have a few years before I really need to worry about this, but still…)

  41. Eva Amsen says:

    Matt, there’s no RNAi in my edition either (second printing, 1995) =) I’m only one or two years away from the blue one. I’ve seen it on people’s shelves – people who were in university at the same time I was!
    Philip, it might differ per department, but we were allowed any colour we wanted at Biochem.

  42. steffi suhr says:

    Erika, I am glad at least someone mentions Voet & Voet – my preference. Can’t remember why.. I think it was the illustrations (I’m kind of a visual gal). Of course, mine is a 1992 German translation… so I couldn’t say either way about your hypothesis 😉

  43. Eva Amsen says:

    My coworker mentioned Voet & Voet as well in response to my thesis colour explanation, although it took me a few seconds to realize that was what she said. I had never heard those names (that word) being pronounced in English before, and tend to read them in Dutch in my head. “Voet” is Dutch for “foot” and sounds just like that. But the name “Voet” sounds like “wode”, apparently.

  44. Richard Wintle says:

    Ok all you book voyeurs, here’s a peek at a very small percentage of the book content of _Chateau Wintle_:

    Hm, I’d thought it was Adams’ _Last Chance To See_, but I see now it was the rather lame _The Salmon Of Doubt_. And Dawkins crept in their somehow too – not one of my faves. Ah well.

  45. Richard Wintle says:

    Forgot to mention, Sir Martin Rees was the honourary graduand at my convocation. His book is rather dense, but full of interesting things.

  46. Cath Ennis says:

    Am I the only one who can’t remember what colour my textbooks were, and didn’t keep a single one past undergrad? (I sold them back to the University bookshop for a fraction of what I’d paid for them). Our undergrad profs drummed it into us from day one that we should mostly be consulting the primary literature rather than textbooks after the first year, although a couple of second year courses did require a new textbook.

  47. Eva Amsen says:

    Well, if you had Stryer, you would have had the first printing of the red one, probably, since you’re 1 year older than I am. Or an old edition of the blue one.

  48. Cath Ennis says:

    I can’t even remember if I had Stryer. I’m leaning more towards Voet and Voet, although both sound familiar.
    Of course, I switched from biochemistry to genetics after my first term, so Genes V was more my cup of tea.

  49. Darren Saunders says:

    You’d remember Stryer if you had it Cath! If your memory needs a jog, come check out my bookshelf (Blue 3rd ed). I lugged it all the way over here from Australia!

  50. Richard Wintle says:

    _Genes V_? Ack! Genes III, puh-leeeeeze.
    Actually I never used it, but I did buy a copy at the U of T bookstore for my (not yet) wife and one of her classmates, whose own university bookstore had sold out of it. Strickbergers, _Genetics_, 3rd edition for me – not one of my faves though.

  51. Cath Ennis says:

    They’re up to Genes IX now, which is just wrong. I bet it says all kinds of weird things about RNA.

  52. Erika Cule says:

    Genes (mine is VIII) is another than I like. Cath, do you want me to look up RNA in the index?

  53. Richard P. Grant says:

    I wonder if Genes X will be aqua-colored?

  54. Katherine Haxton says:

    Great colour, and congratulations on the final product.

  55. Ian Brooks says:

    Congrats Eva! Awesomely cool, and red suits your e-temperament 🙂

  56. Maria Jose Navarrete-Talloni says:

    Felicitaciones Eva!!… Great news!.
    Red is a GREAT colour… (and you found a nice place for _”The Thesis”_ on your shelf).
    Congrats again! (and enjoy) 😉

  57. Heather Etchevers says:

    “RNAi”: ndex.
    That’s how I read it, Erika, to start.
    RW: I’m feeling very cheap, now, when I see your proportion of hard- to softcover books, and that they’re not two deep on the shelf.

  58. Richard Wintle says:

    Ascertainment bias, Heather – I have copious quantities of second-hand softcovers and things from discount bins. They just aren’t very photogenic. 😉

  59. Cameron Neylon says:

    I love it – more books! Probably best not to show the other shelf. Would probably send several people apoplectic at the combination…

  60. Wilson Hackett says:

    Congratulations, Eva!

  61. Eva Amsen says:

    I should pull up all those book images in a post to make them more visible. Hmm….or do a little project, in which I feature people’s bookshelves and talk about them.

  62. Cameron Neylon says:

    Yes! You could have people talk about their books and why they have them, where they came from, what the stories are…

  63. Eva Amsen says:

    I used to only shelve books after I read them, but this fall and winter I got so many books that they were taking up too much space just lying on tables and couches, so I had to start shelving unread books…

  64. Richard Wintle says:

    Muah ha ha ha ha!!!! It’s taken me approximately *forever*, but here’s another contribution to the cause. Oh, and I’ll happily volunteer to contribute to your blog post bookshelf project, if you like. 🙂

    _Richard’s office bookshelf, recently_

  65. Eva Amsen says:

    I totally forgot about my bookshelf project! My excuse is: I’m organizing an actual physical event, with rooms and food and stuff, which has taken over the projects part of my brain.
    Also, your thesis doesn’t match your Stryer!

  66. Richard Wintle says:

    My thesis doesn’t match much of anything, except perhaps some three-day-old dog excrement. I should have gone with bright blue, even though I don’t care much for Stryer and only read the bare minimum necessary.
    There are two books in that photo that feature chapters authored by NN members – can you spot them? Hint: one of those authors is a NN blogger.