Yesterday my friend and roommate, Neha Bhooshan, successfully defended her dissertation in Medical Physics at the University of Chicago. The title of her research is “Advanced Computer-Aided Diagnosis and Prognosis for Breast MRI.” It’s very smart and very complicated stuff. Having been awarded one “Dr.” title, Neha’s now working toward getting her second “Dr.” title, this time as an MD. I’m so proud of her and know her many friends and family members are too. Congratulations Neha!!! (er, Dr. Bhooshan)
The last few months, weeks, and days of a dissertation project are usually quite stressful and trying for the student. The emotional and physical costs of the final push are also shared by family and friends of the student. It’s hard to see someone you care about be a nervous wreck for days on end and undergo the ups and downs of relationships with advisors and thesis committee members. It’s especially hard when you know there isn’t much you can do to help in terms of the project at hand. What family and friends can do is provide a supportive and caring environment in many ways: cook warm meals and make enough for leftovers, give the occasional hug or words of encouragement, bake special treats for late-night work sessions, and, perhaps most importantly, be patient. Listen to the rants and show empathy, not sympathy. Pity is a salve that wears off all too quickly and can make the sufferer feel worse about themselves, not better.
As difficult as the last few months have been for Neha, they have been more than a little trying for me too. Neha is a sweet, smart, and fun girl. That Neha all but disappeared thanks to constant revisions, excessive demands, and unnecessary delinquencies on the part of certain professors. Happily for all, the Neha I, and her friends and family, adore is back now. I think coming home to this yesterday helped:
Her favorite drink is the White Russian, so I wanted to make treats that captured the essence of that drink. She, like all normal people, also loves chocolate. The cake is a rich, moist Guinness chocolate cake (the same cake in the Guinness&Bailey’s cupcake recipe) covered in Kahlua cream cheese icing (homemade, of course), and topped with mini chocolate chips and dark chocolate-covered espresso beans. The ice cream is a “White Russian” ice cream which is essentially a rich vanilla custard based mixed with vodka and Kahlua liqueur. The Kahlua didn’t pop out as much in the ice cream as I would have liked, so what we have instead is a very rich, deliciously creamy vanilla ice cream. Not that that’s a bad thing at all. Mix it with some Kahlua and you’re good to go!
Making the ice cream and cake took some planning and subterfuge to accomplish. I had to wake up early Thursday morning to make the custard as soon as she left for school (so that it could chill enough to freeze the next day), and then “go to dinner” that night at my friend Kevin’s place across the river in order to borrow his kitchen to bake the cake and make the frosting. Friday morning, the day of the defense, I had to wait until she left again in order to freeze the ice cream and decorate the cake. All this meant I came into work a bit late, but with my advisor on in-patient service and nearly all of my week’s work already done, I didn’t feel too guilty.
Her joyous and downright gleeful reaction to the desserts was just what I was going for. I’m happy to have my roomie back, and thrilled she’s done with her thesis. Congrats again Neha!!