Summer 2013: travel, office organisation and research

As we come to the end of summer, at least as defined by the university academic year, I thought it might be interesting to look back at what was achieved, as well as what didn’t go so well.

A week after the spring semester finished I travelled to Amsterdam to examine a PhD thesis. The research had been performed in the UK (at Huddersfield), but for various reasons it was easier to have the viva in Amsterdam . Anyway, I was very happy to travel there (see an earlier post, A Long Weekend in Amsterdam), and it gave me the chance to revisit a city I once knew quite well, and to introduce Angela to it. In fact we liked it so much that we booked a short break there in August.

Once I had returned from Amsterdam, I had a few exam board meetings to attend at Keele before my next trip, to Vienna, to continue an ongoing research collaboration with a couple of groups there. This visit was successful in that we had a useful meeting and planned a joint paper, but as I write this post it still isn’t complete, although there isn’t much more to do. I live in hope that it will be finished so I can submit it soon. The main delay is due to the fact that 3 groups are involved, and it sometimes seems that herding cats is an easier proposition than coordinating academics!

Returning from Vienna in early July coincided with the start of a period of summer weather. We had temperatures much higher than normal; 30 degrees Celsius routinely at Keele, which is very unusual. During this period I set about a much needed tidy of my office, which included emptying a filing cabinet and finally removing the piles of paper from my desk. I came up against one unexpected problem: in these days of recycling, paper recycle bins fill very quickly, and it was frequently necessary to transport bags of paper to bins elsewhere on campus! But I got there in the end, with much appreciated help from Angela. I was very pleased with my tidy desk, going as far as to photograph it and upload the photo to Facebook!

August saw our short break in Amsterdam, as mentioned earlier. This time we were able to be tourists, and amongst other things we went to a very interesting exhibition on the Dutch monarchy, as well as trying unsuccessfully to track down the houseboat where I lived for a month in 1987. Shortly after returning from Amsterdam it was time for the GBBF, as mentioned in a previous post. That took me to mid-August, giving me 3 weeks to get through a long to-do list before my next conference commitments.

The main item on the to-do list was the final organisation of the symposium that we were holding in honour of Professor Patrick Jacobs and his contributions to solid state chemistry. This was due to take place on 13 September. In discussion with Richard Catlow I finalised the programme, and we ensured that the room was booked and catering organised. I also had a talk to prepare, which was in part recollections of Patrick, and in part science. Another item on the list was to prepare a talk for a conference in Germany on lithium niobate, which was something of a challenge, since it had been some 8 years since I last worked on this material. It was a useful exercise though, in that it refreshed my memory and gave me some new ideas of what I could do in the future, including an undergraduate project for next year.

One thing which didn’t work as planned this summer was that my friend and research collaborator from Brazil, Mário Valerio, was unable to visit at the last minute. This was a problem, since I depend on our work together for most of my research activities, and I get many ideas for new projects from our discussions. But hopefully he will be able to visit later in the academic year, and in the meantime we will keep the research momentum going by Google Hangouts (as Google chats are called now!)

Anyway, I can report that the Patrick Jacobs symposium went well. Time permitting I will write a separate post on this, as I would like to go into some detail on the talks etc.

I had arranged to be in London following the German conference, and we had a nice couple of days visiting an exhibition and seeing a film (White House Down), as well as generally enjoying being in my favourite city.

As I post this, the last week before the new semester has just started. It will see me at Keele for the early part of the week, before having a final trip, this time to Glasgow, to see the ballet ‘Elite Syncopations’ and enjoy some retail therapy. Then it’s back to Keele to face the music (well the new semester anyway!)

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