# Attending a PhD defense

I recently attended the defense of an old friend's PhD thesis. I hadn't seen them in quite a long time - I knew them from doing mathematical competitions and later university, but I dropped out a year or two into our studies and we fell out of contact after that.

But I was invited to their PhD thesis defense. I (apparently) contributed somewhat significantly to sparking a joy for number theory. They're a far more motivated and hard-working individual than I was even back when we trained for the competitions together, and this remains true to this day, but while I personally lacked the drive to study as hard as they did I did once possess similar aspirations. So, I took great joy in attending this monumental academic event and witness this dream come true from a safe distance.

Naturally, I understand very little of what they've written, although before they started their official defense, they did a lovely introduction for the "idiots" (at least, comparatively) which I understood and enjoyed quite a bit. There was a fair overlap with what I used to be excited about in mathematics, and it faintly fanned the tiny flame that used to be a fire.

After this 10-minute explanation of what they've been working on, the real defense started, and by golly; that's quite something. Again, I understood nearly nothing of what was being discussed, even less so than I could understand their unique attire. It was so formal that the entire audience had to get up every time a fancily-dressed person wanted to enter or exit the room. What I did understand of the defense was that they had done an incredible job with their research, not only being the first to find a proof for their theorem(s), but also openening many doors to be walked through by either them or others.

In a way, I also felt that the admiration I have contains a pinch of incompetence. I admire what they've done and, in a way, regret not taking the same path. Academic achievements (at least of the mathematical variety) are forever true and thus forever useful. Humanity builds on a wealth of knowledge, and a PhD is essentially one of the first major contributions to this pile that we use to advance all kinds of areas in science. What have *I* done?

To end this collection of somewhat arbitrarily arranged thoughts, let me once again express my admiration for their achievement, and I am proud of their incredible feat of becoming a Doctor.