Defense by Shabnam Najafian

Today, Shabnam Najafian successfully defended her PhD thesis with the title “User Modeling for Privacy-preserving Explanations in Group Recommendations” at TU Delft. I had the honor to serve on her PhD committee.

Beyond asking challenging questions and Shabnam nicely defending her work, it was also a very special experience for me because it was the first time I attended a Dutch PhD defense which happens to be very different to defenses I know (e.g., from Austria). There is a very (!) strict dress code. And already understanding the dress code regulations requires a PhD—minimum! ;-) Also, there is a strict protocol concerning where to sit, where to walk, when to walk, and in which order, etc. BTW—lots of walking involved. The senate room has four doors and we used three of those for entering and leaving and re-entering. Very confusing was also that the defense comes without a presentation of the thesis. Well, it comes with a brief “layperson presentation” for the general audience. But members of the PhD committee are considered experts and have read the thesis; so, the committee is not even present in the senate room while the candidate is presenting.

All in all—a very interesting experience.