Scholar James Omondi Outa defended his doctoral thesis via video conference

23. March 2020
A man with a lanyard around his neck, in front of a plain white background
A ray of hope in difficult times: Despite the corona virus the defence could take place via video conference.

We congratulate James Omondi Outa who defended his doctoral thesis with excellence on 18th of March 2020. This was the first time one of our scholars had to defend via a video conference. He reports about his experience:

"The final one and a half weeks before my PhD defence were packed with anxiety, not because of the exam itself, but because I was not sure whether it would take place after the universities were closed. In addition, I was notified that two of the examiners who are from Germany were not able to come to Austria and attend the defense. It was difficult to prepare for such an important academic exam in the prevailing uncertainties. About five days before the exam a video conference was proposed. Initially, I wasn’t very upbeat about the idea, nonetheless we started planning. In our case, "Gotomeeting" was suggested as a good tool. I had to prepare test sessions with all the examiners in advance to ensure that everything was working well, including sharing the screen (PowerPoint slides). 18th of March 2020 was the defence date− I prepared mentally like I would do for a defence in a big seminar room, I also dressed up for the occasion! I believe that there is always room for excellence; in the small things, in the big things, even in the face of adversity. The atmosphere was great, and the whole session went well. The examiners were satisfied and noted that it was one of the best "defensios" they have been part of. I would never have advocated for a video conference defence, but now I know that under special circumstances it should be considered."

James and his scientific supervisor Prof Franz Jirsa, Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, thank all the involved staff at the University of Vienna who made the video conference possible. In addition two colleagues from Germany participated in the defence committee from their respective homes. Their effort is highly appreciated.

James holds an MSc degree in Limnology from Egerton University, Kenya. Prior to commencing his PhD studies, he worked for Maseno University of Kenya in a research collaboration with Nagasaki University of Japan, where he was involved in water quality studies in Lake Victoria from 2014-2016. He is passionate about aquatic ecology research and his PhD investigates the ecological status of Africa’s largest lake. The work covers ecotoxicology: heavy metal pollution of water and sediment and accumulation in aquatic food products consumed by the local population. The work also involves investigation of the parasite fauna of snails and commercial fish with highlights into their bio-indicative aspects and the veterinary and medical implications.