Achievement Unlocked: PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering

It was a few months ago when I breathed a sigh of relief as I submitted my thesis and understood that the journey would soon come to an end. I wasn’t a “free man” by any means, as it turns out.

The Assessment

The interim period is one that began with quietness and enjoyment. At the beginning, with no role to fulfill, I could indulge in the things I enjoy most and catch up on all the laziness I’ve been missing out on while preparing the thesis. The joy was real, and I think it was a nice “decompress” to not have to think about it all for a while. The first month was by far the most enjoyable.

But then, after that, it dawns on you that you’re not done yet. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a pessimist, and I like to worry about things even though I shouldn’t. But no matter what, I decided to login to myUNSW and check Thesis Examination Management (TEM) for any updates. Assessor due dates were marked on the calendar. Fingers crossed that reports would come in on time. No big deal initially.

Then, as the date draws nearer, you remember to keep checking on a daily basis with hope that examiners would return their reports early, even though you know in your heart that it would be exceptional for that to happen. Then you resign yourself to be happy if they were submitted on time. But before long, you get a little kick in the gut to see that the examiners requested an extension and had it granted, so you’re pretty much saddled with an increasingly nervous wait hoping to hear the result.

I suppose the thing that takes you out of the nervous wait-loop is if you’re successful in getting a write-up scholarship to finish up a few papers and get them submitted to journals. I dutifully applied, but got knocked back owing to the lack of funds this year, but luckily for me, my supervisors arranged an equivalent offer from funds sourced elsewhere. As a result, I was back to what was quite similar to the normal routine of coming into uni and supervisor meetings. But as we all know, paper writing is something that’s hard to get motivated for, and in fact, I’m still trying to finish it all even today!

Regardless, once you see the reports have (at last) rolled in, then begins the administrative game of passing the result to you. My results were sent to the school for vetting, and somehow, managed to stay in the school for 27 days. I didn’t expect that at all. The result was unexpected as well – a C from one examiner and an A from the other. This meant that revisions were required and an approvals process would be required.

Chasing a Deadline

I got right onto the changes, and the supervisors were supportive in advising me as to how to respond to the comments. I managed to get them all finished in 14 days and submitted it on 15th August for consideration. I expected it would take two weeks or so, as the graduation window for the year would close firmly on the 16th September. One day shy of a month for them to review the changes should be enough, right?

I waited patiently, waiting to hear something positive. The friends around me were all saying “yeah, you’re done.” But I knew I wasn’t done until I saw the result.

Two weeks before the deadline, and it’s 5th September. I’m starting to get a little nervous, but it seems my supervisors haven’t heard anything. By the Friday of that week, I implore the supervisors to follow up and see what’s going on.

The week of the deadline, and nothing is heard. It gets to Wednesday 12th. I’m almost ready to accept my fate. I might not be part of this years’ graduation ceremony. Thursday morning, and still no news. I decide to try chasing the matter with the GRS and my supervisor, so we can approach it from both sides “administratively speaking”. It took three calls to get to a person … so I guess it must have been a busy time for all.

I was asked to e-mail everything to them, so they could use it for reference. It was my luck that at that exact moment, UNSW’s MX servers were having a meltdown and e-mails were getting caught on the inbound … for over an hour. I was desperate, so I decided to send myself test e-mails just to check – from four different mail providers, all were much the same:


At least, they had the messages by the close of business, and they could chase it up on Friday – the deadline day.


Rather luckily for me, just after lunch-time, I got an e-mail saying that the changes were approved and I would be awarded. Just in the nick of time. When I had almost thought that all hope was lost. I would be graduating this year.

I hastily filed my digital thesis submission to the library on the same day to make sure there wouldn’t be any hold-ups in regards to conferral and graduation booking. Just yesterday, that was all approved.

As a result, I was able to book in my ceremony. Today is the day of conferral …


… so technically speaking, I am now Dr. Gough Lui, after four years of hard work, and nine years of being at UNSW including my undergraduate degree. To celebrate, I’ve updated the logo with the news:


To that end, I still have to update my bio amongst other things. I’ll get around to that, someday.


The assessment process proved to be more complicated and stressful than I had imagined. I thought I would miss this year’s graduation ceremonies and conferral thanks to administrative delays, but luckily, they pulled through merely hours before the graduation window closed.

While now I have my degree and title conferred, there are still things to be done. For one, I’ve now got to organize the clean-up and hand-over of archival goods, and get the printed-and-bound copies of the thesis organized for myself, supervisors and the school. The thesis has been submitted to the library but it will be subject to a 12 month embargo while I continue and finish all of the necessary work to get more papers published.

That being said, I feel much more at ease to think about the future – namely next year, I will be spending a lot of time travelling in Asia for a well-deserved holiday, so the focus of the site might change more towards personal posts. In the interim, I’ll be busy as always.

Good luck to all the others studying for their PhD!

About lui_gough

I'm a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!
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10 Responses to Achievement Unlocked: PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering

  1. Edward says:

    Congratulations, Gough!

    That sounds like quite the adventure to your conferral. Then again, perhaps your experience was more or less typical? In some ways it sounds like some strips I’ve seen on PHD Comics. I’ll find out for myself soon enough as I submitted my thesis last month. By the way, in your post you wrote “I managed to get [the changes] all finished in 14 days and submitted it on 15th September for consideration.” I think you really mean 15th August?

    All the best for your present and future endeavours (and the unfinished papers)!

    • lui_gough says:

      Well caught – yes, that’s what I meant.

      Good luck with your submission – I really hope it doesn’t come down to the line like it did for me – it can just get so stressful!

      – Gough

  2. Well done. A PhD is a real achievement, as well as a lot of hard work

  3. Mark says:

    Congrats on being Piled Higher and Deeper…

  4. Mark B. says:

    Congratulations! Wish you the best!

  5. me2olive says:

    Congratulations Gough! I submitted my MPhil thesis around a month ago and am still waiting for a viva date, so I know all about the stress!

  6. lui_gough says:

    Thanks everyone for their comments!

    Yes, I’m familiar with Jorge Cham’s comics – I’ve read most of them :). It’s pretty much a prerequisite for studying a PhD, but at least in Australia, it’s not quite as harsh as it seems to be in the US.

    Good luck to everyone currently researching, writing or waiting for their results.

  7. Greg says:

    Congratulations! Well done.

  8. ginbot86 says:

    Congratulations, Gough!

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