“These findings add to our understanding, and also point out the need for additional research on this question, before we can say we truly have a full picture of the phenomenon under study.” Allison paused, took a deep breath, and made eye contact with her committee chair. “Thank you,” she said.
The committee chair appeared startled, or perhaps he’d just woken up. “Yes. Miss. Well. Thank you. Now.” It was as if he could not speak more than one word at a time. Had he been asleep with his eyes open? Allison would not mind if that were true. One way or another, today was the last day she’d have to deal with him.
Dr. Wright, on the other hand, gazed at her with intense, predatory alertness. Allison was reminded of the old cartoons she’d watched as a child, when the fox or wolf would have a bubble above their heads, the lamb or chicken alive in front of them represented in their thought bubble as a delicious cooked roast. That’s me, she thought. I’m in his thought bubble right now.
She decided to get whatever would happen over with. “Thank you,” she said again. “Any questions?” Her chair realized this was supposed to be his line, so he repeated it. “Yes. Any questions from the panel?”
Dr. Wright inhaled, but Dr. Tejara beat him to the punch. “I have several questions, Allison. First, let me confirm something. Your methodology for your thesis, I believe you constructed it following the model developed by your chair, Professor Bellaire? And in fact, you and he worked together on it?”
Did Dr. Tejara wink at her as she posed this question? Allison probably imagined that. Dr. Tejara never let her professional shell slip. Still, it was clear as crystal what she was doing. Dr. Tejara was trying to inoculate Allison against Dr. Wright’s favorite tactic, by connecting her methodology to the chair. If her sleazy colleague wanted to pin Allison into a corner, his attack would also rouse the ire of the other professor.
“Yes, ma’am,” Allison said.
“Excellent,” Dr. Tejara went on. “I believe we all agree that Dr. Bellaire’s model is the state of the art in our field. So, let me ask you a few things about your findings.”
Allison kept her focus on the female professor, her sudden ally. In her peripheral vision, it seemed very much like Dr. Bellaire, the chair, went back to sleeping with his eyes open, while Dr. Wright, the predator – well, she could see his thought bubble dissolve.