My Review of 2014

The year began with some new teaching, on X-ray diffraction, which nicely coincided with 2014 being the International Year of Crystallography, and a research trip to Hannover. I had already attempted to go to Hannover in late 2013 but was thwarted by passport problems (see last year’s review). This trip went successfully, although I’m not sure if anything will come out of the project in the end!

The early months of the year were dominated by teaching activities, and there isn’t much of significance to report.

In June I had my final external examining trip to the University of Kent, and my second one to Nottingham Trent University. I have enjoyed the Kent post; the NTU one is challenging in that my role is less clear, but I am always well looked after, and everything is well organised. It was also nice to spend a couple of nights in the centre of Nottingham.

I was back in Kent in July for the Eurodim2014 conference that I had helped organise. It went very well, and as always it was good to see old friends, including several who came to the Eurodim1998 conference at Keele. I gave a talk in a session dedicated to Patrick Jacobs (see earlier posts for more details), and one of my PhD students, Scott Walker, attended. I also met Giordano Bispo, Mario’s student, who will be visiting me at Keele later in the year.

In August I had my usual trip to the Great British Beer Festival (see post for details) and it was as good as ever.

At the end of September, just before the start of the Autumn Semester, Angela and I had our first proper holiday for several years, a week at a resort hotel in Greece on a half-board basis. It was wonderful – because of the location and the fact that we didn’t have to do anything! We flew to Thessaloniki from Gatwick (after an overnight stay, of course), and were taken to and from the resort by coach. The holiday included some interesting trips to places of local interest, and we took part in some of those, as well as just enjoying the hotel amenities. We came back relaxed and refreshed, and I was straight into the Autumn Semester.

We have revamped our third year modules, and I had a new module on Quantum Chemistry which included material that I hadn’t taught for 15 years or more. So I wasn’t at all sure how it would go down with the students. I’m pleased to say that the module got good reviews, but I will have to wait and see how the exam goes before I can comment definitely.

My academic visitor from Brazil, Giordano Bispo, arrived at Keele on 18 October. He settled in quickly, and formalities like police registration were more straightforward than anticipated. Since arriving he has made good progress with his research, including presenting some of his work at a conference, as mentioned later.

Also in October, I was invited to give a lecture on Careers in Science Communication at a Life Sciences Careers Conference at Staffordshire University. This was a very interesting experience, and it was nice to wear my science communication hat again!

The semester was punctuated on the home front by our having to move out of our flat for 5 days to have some asbestos traces removed. It was a pain to arrange, but we were put up very comfortably in the Keele Management Centre. When we moved back into the flat the kitchen had to be repainted, and we decided the floor had to be resurfaced. It took some time to order the tiles, but thanks to some amazing work from Angela, everything was back in place in time for Christmas!

At the end of the semester I attended the annual RSC Solid State Chemistry Group meeting, which was held in Glasgow, along with Scott and Giordano (who presented a poster). This was a particularly good meeting, and was a fitting end to the year.

Christmas was spent at Keele, and was nice until I went down with a bad cold/flu bug which knocked me out for 5 days (and counting). But I’m hopefully recovering in time for the New Year!

Musical activities in 2014 included concerts with my orchestras in Nantwich and Middlewich, and my return, after several years, to the Keele Philharmonic Orchestra. This latter event was particularly pleasing, and the concert featured an amazing performance of Grieg’s Piano Concerto at a concert in December. Also, on a musical theme, I purchased a tenor trombone this year, having come to the conclusion that if I was going to regularly play 1st trombone parts, it would be needed. Following my friend and fellow trombone player Bob Crawshaw’s advice, I chose a Vincent Bach ‘Stradivarius’ instrument; a straight concert-style tenor instrument with no extra Bb/F tubing. I used it first at a concert in June, and I am very pleased with it. For the Keele concert I played my old trusty bass trombone, which I hadn’t played for a while.

On the computing hardware front, I purchased a Google Nexus 7 tablet at the end of 2013, which I have used throughout the year. But I finally came to the conclusion that Android versions of Microsoft Office that do the things I need are unlikely to appear, so I used some of my external examiner payments to purchase a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet, which is absolutely superb, and should serve me well on my travels and when working from home. In January I will also be upgrading my trusty 2-year old Samsung SG3 smartphone, which has served me well but which is now behind in its Android OS version, and can’t receive 4G, which will hopefully appear in our area soon!

To conclude, 2014 has been an interesting and challenging year, and I look forward to (and expect) much of the same in 2015.

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