A review of 2012

Traditionally, not much worth reporting happens in the first 3 months of a typical year for me, but 2012 was an exception to this. Early in January saw me travel to Dublin to do a PhD viva for my colleague Dónall MacDónaill. Angela was able to join me, and we had a nice stay at Cassidy’s Hotel and some time for sightseeing.

The academic year then trundled along, with exams in early January, and the second semester starting after that. I gave my lectures on Quantum Chemistry and Statistical Thermodynamics, followed by a touch of ballistics for the Forensic Science students. A previous post referred to some of these lectures, but I can report with hindsight that they seemed to go OK, and the previously experienced class behavioural issues were blissfully absent this year.

In April I had a second trip to Vienna, to work on the nuclear clocks project referred to previously. This went well, although rather embarrassingly I still haven’t written this work up (maybe that’s a useful hidden benefit of these reviews, to remind one of such things!) The trip went well; we stayed in the same hotel (Grand Hotel Biedermeier), and I had a bit more time for sightseeing. Vienna is a great city, and I’m very happy to spend time there!

May and June are traditional exam times, and much time was devoted to marking and attending meetings. I did my fourth and final external examining stint at Surrey, and my second trip to Kent (made challenging by the non-attendance of the second examiner due to an ill child, but I coped). My own students at Keele did generally well in their exams, and two of my three project students secured PhD places (at Birmingham and Manchester).

Immediately after my Surrey external examining, I travelled to the USA with my PhD students, Tom and Scott, to attend the ICDIM conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We flew via Heathrow – Dallas Fort Worth – Albuquerque with American Airlines, and the trip went smoothly, including my admission to the USA! As for the conference, it went well for us, with Scott giving a talk that was well received, and Tom presenting two posters that created interest and questions. It was also great to catch up with old friends and colleagues. Our return journey was noteworthy for a combination of good and bad reasons: our booked flights were cancelled (apparently due to pilots not being available), and we were rerouted via Phoenix and Chicago! But as recompense we were put up in a hotel and upgraded to first class! So although we got back to London about 18 hours later than scheduled, the trip was very smooth indeed!

In July I attended the Keele graduation ceremonies, and in August I was at the Great British Beer Festival, back in Olympia this year. Later in the month my colleague Mario visited from Brazil, and we had a very fruitful week working on current research collaborations. In September I attended my last British Science Festival as Chemistry Recorder, which was held in Aberdeen. This event has been part of my life for over 20 years, but I felt it was time to step down, having identified a suitable and willing successor in Dr Stephen Ashworth. It remains to be seen if I’ll miss it, but hopefully I can move on and make good use of the time that was previously tied up with this post. Almost Immediately after the Science Festival I was off to the pleasant location of St Anne’s College, Oxford for a conference on academic research in nuclear energy.

I should also mention that of course the 2012 Olympics were held in the UK, and Angela was a volunteer, known as a Gamesmaker. She was based at Old Trafford, Manchester, for the football competition, which meant that she was away from home for about 23 nights over July-August.  When Mario visited (at the end of the Olympics), we carried out our own UK-Brazil handover! (see Facebook for the photos!)

And so we come to the start of the new academic year, 2012/13. This year promised to be particularly challenging, with a record sized final year in Chemistry/Medicinal Chemistry. I had been allocated 6 project students, more than ever before. I wasn’t at all sure if I could cope, even having carefully planned 6 projects. Since the projects run through to March, it’s too early to say if I’ll be ultimately successful, but currently all 6 students have results that can be written up, so it should be OK! Supervising the project students has been my mainly challenge this semester; my teaching went OK, and I was able to take on board some new administrative responsibilities without major difficulty.

As I mentioned in my Christmas post, the year ended with my St Andrews conference, which I talk about there, as well as  being afflicted by a bad cold which put me out of action for a few days over the Christmas period. But to end this review, I’ll mention some non work-related activities that have helped keep me sane over the past year.

I managed to see 16 films this year, from ‘The Iron Lady’ to ‘The Hobbit’. I saw a couple of amazing musicals: ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ and ‘Let it Be’, and an excellent photo exhibition, ‘Another London’ at the Tate Britain. I played trombone for my two regular orchestras, although the repertoire for this year’s concerts was neither exciting or particularly challenging.

So that’s about it for my review of 2012. 2013 looks to be challenging, and there will certainly be plenty to write about!

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