2000-2009: a brief retrospective

Looking over the last decade, it is clear that I started 2000 with a lot more optimism than I have now! But what were the highlights (and lowlights) of the decade for me? As an academic, my job dominates my life (my wife says it’s a vocation, not a job), so much of what I have to say here inevitably relates to work. In 1999/2000 I went through the process of successfully applying for promotion to Reader (which turns out probably to have been my last promotion), so that seemed to be a good start. My research collaborations, particularly the one with Brazil, were going well, and we presented several papers at a conference in South Africa that year. This collaboration continued as the decade progressed, with papers presented at conferences in Poland (2002), Latvia (2004), Italy (2006), culminating in Brazil in 2008, which I also jointly organised. The other part of my job, teaching, continued much as usual except that my department came under a lot of pressure in the early to middle part of the decade, and was effectively threatened with closure at one point. We survived by digging our heels in, taking more students but not increasing staff numbers. Teaching and administration loads inevitably increased, and there were some hard years. But things slowly got better with new staff appointments, and until a few months ago, everything seemed to be going well. But now we face government cuts resulting from the recession, and it is impossible to predict the effect of these. But we carry on and try to be optimistic about the future!

Almost at the end of the decade, I started two new research collaborations which should feature prominently in the coming decade. The first of these involves colleagues in the USA, and the second is a funded project from a company in the UK, which has enabled me to take on a new PhD student. I will write about these projects another time.

I should also mention my main interest outside work, music, specifically as a trombone player. At the beginning of the decade I had more or less stopped playing as a result of work commitments, and I missed it badly. But I managed to get back into playing, largely thanks to attending two Summer Schools at Marlborough College. I now play in two local orchestras, and may be able to do more playing in the coming decade.

So as we begin 2010, there are positives and negatives. The positives include new and exciting research collaborations, and more musical activities than 10 years ago. On the negative side there is the uncertainty arising from possible government cuts affecting my University, and some difficulties in maintaining my collaboration with Brazil, due to communication issues which need not be gone into now. So although I have less optimism as we start the new decade than 10 years ago, there are enough positives to keep me going, and I hope to be able to report on these another time.

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