Category Image Dissertation Titles 


While doing a little clean-up today I ran across the program for the doctoral hooding ceremony in June. Our pal Durrell was hooded and Andrew and I attended the ceremony. While sitting through hundreds of names being read, our best entertainment was to flip furiously through the program to see what the named person's dissertation was on. Fascinating how the sciences differ in determining what good dissertation title is compared to the humanities. Some examples:

1. Tec kinases mediate sustained calcium influx via site-specific tyrosine phosphorylation of thePLCϒ2 SH2-SH3 linker region

2. Fast Sweeping Methods for Static Hamilton-Jacobi Equations

3. Characterization of the dif Locus, a Chemotaxis-like Operon, and nla24, a Putative σ54-Dependent Transcriptional Activator, in Myxococcus xanthus

4. Movement of Liquid Metal and Aqueous Solution in Micro- and Nano-engineered Non-wetting Surfaces

5. Axonal Regeneration and Step-training after Complete Spinal Cord Transection in the Neonatal and Adult Rat

6. Operators in the d=4, N=4 SYM and the AdS/CFT Correspondence

Obviously, all of the work behind these titles is of the highest caliber, but what about those titles? I suppose someone from the sciences might find the humanities titles equally strange. Humanities titles tend to be a bit more whimsical thanks to the use of a pre- and post-colon structure. The idea is that the pre-colon element catches your eye, and then the post-colon gives a one-line summary of the project using several $.50 nouns strung together. However, the science titles above dispense with the whole colon construct because the work is "science." As such, it shouldn't need a catchy pre-colon element. Science needs no touchy-feely marketing, you see. At the same time, the steel curtain placed between the casual reader and the content of the work is strange and arguably doesn't happen in the humanities (at least not too often). Indeed, the titles above read like collections of random words at times. Nevertheless, it's good to know that the dif Locus is not actually a Chemotaxis Operon, but only Chemotaxis-like. Moreover, thanks for clearing up what nla24 is. Now if I could only figure out what Myxococcus xanthus is I'd have a shot at being able to decide whether to read the dissertation.

The emphasis on hard and fast titles also reveals some of the scary work that goes on in the bowels of south campus. Check out the one that talks about getting in shape shortly after having your spinal cord completely transected. My back hurts just thinking about it.

In some ways, these titles have a "Who Cares If You Listen" aspect to them (NB: that was the title given to composer Milton Babbitt's famous article in which he talked about the 20th century composer's function as a "specialist"). The last title in the list is particularly grim in this regard. It's so flat-out, bang, who-cares-if-you-know-what-I'm-talking-about. I really must find the program from 2003 (the year I walked). There's one particularly brilliant title in there that I have to show you. Hey, maybe I'll make a fun matching game where you all have to match the title of a dissertation with the department it was written for. Wouldn't that be cool? 

Posted: Friday - August 06, 2004 at 01:25 PM