WUR has now had its first entirely online PhD ceremonies. Jarst van Belle and Pauline van Haperen took the plunge on 24 March. Interestingly, they were also each other’s ‘paranymph’ (assistant).
The two — who did their PhDs in the Laboratory of Plant Breeding, where they met four years ago — considered postponing the ceremony but decided to go ahead. They had planned to defend their PhDs on the same day anyway. ‘That was easier for family and friends; then everyone could come at the same time,’ says Van Haperen. ‘But we can forget that now.’
They defended their theses via Skype. ‘The protocol is the same,’ says Dean of Sciences Wouter Hendriks. Even the beadle is online. Of course it was not possible for the documents to be signed in the usual way; that will be done later. The defence was recorded and will be available afterwards to the general public. A live stream of the event was not technically possible.
The two were each other’s assistants for logistical reasons. ‘We initially had four other assistants but we didn’t want to take any additional risks. It is a real shame our original assistants couldn’t be there.’ The two plan to celebrate in style later. Van Belle: ‘We will schedule that for a Friday rather than a Tuesday.’ They will give a lay presentation on that day for their family and friends. That wasn’t possible now because there was no audience. Van Haperen: ‘My sister lives with us so we had one woman and each other as the audience.’