My review of 2015

The year began with recovery from a cold/flu virus that had struck me down just after Christmas 2014. As I write this review I am pleased to report that in the Christmas holiday 2015 I am well.

On the teaching front, the year did not involve any new material, having made extensive changes in 2013-14. It started in January with my X-ray diffraction lectures having a second outing, followed by quantum chemistry/statistical thermodynamics (which had also been recently revised). Later in the year my teaching included advanced quantum chemistry and materials chemistry lectures, again having a second outing. My Forensics teaching included revised lectures on Arson given in the autumn. I travelled to Nottingham Trent University in June for my third external examining visit, which went smoothly.

Research in the first half of 2015 was dominated by Giordano Bispo’s visit. His project involved use of supercells to model a material with partial occupancies, and it was (and continues to be) very challenging. He will be submitting his PhD thesis in 2016, which will hopefully include some of this work. In addition I started a new project with ‘old’ collaborators in Germany, which included a visit to Goslar and Clausthal in June. I only attended two conferences this year, one in Bristol, where an old student kindly invited me to give a talk, even though the main theme of the conference was Analytical Chemistry (!), and the annual RSC Solid State Group Chemistry meeting, which was held this year at the University of Kent. At this meeting I didn’t contribute to the scientific proceedings, but I did stand for Group Treasurer, and was elected by 41 votes to 19!

On the musical front, I continued to play in three orchestras (South Cheshire, Middlewich and Keele), and was involved in concerts for all of them. They were all fun, but unlike in 2014, none of the programmes were particularly interesting or challenging. Let’s hope that changes in 2016.

I had my annual visit to the GBBF in August, which I posted about earlier in the year, and we had a short holiday in Brussels in September, which was well timed (although not by design) to coincide with the start of the Belgian Beer Weekend (which I also posted on). I am very fond of Brussels, and the fact it is accessible by Eurostar is the icing on the cake.

2015 was dominated by a General Election, and although the result was very bad for me, it had a positive personal effect in a way. I had continued to support Labour, even though I left the party in 2013, and I had quite high hopes for them in the General Election. In the end, the poll predictions all proved to be wrong (apart from Angela’s predictions, which were also right about Labour’s collapse in Scotland), and the Tories won with an overall majority. As a result, Labour had a leadership election, and the left-wing candidate Jeremy Corbyn won. But before the result of the leadership election had even been announced, I had made the decision to join the Liberal Democrats, and to look for Social Democrats within the party to align with. I just couldn’t continue as a Labour supporter, especially with Corbyn as leader! Anyway, after reading posts on LibDemVoice, I made contact with George Kendall, who was interested in reviving the Social Democrat tradition in the party. I am now helping George to set up a Social Democrat Group. I am also active in my local party, where I was appointed Social Media Officer and webmaster in November. So for me, something good came out of the General Election, in that I have now found a political home in which I am much happier.

Finally, I should add a tech update. Early in 2015 I upgraded my mobile phone to a Sony Xperia Z3, and it has worked very well throughout the year. At the moment I have no immediate plans for an upgrade; we’ll see what emerges during 2016. There will be a new flavour of Android, for example. And on the laptop front, my Microsoft Surface 3 continues to serve me well. I also invested in a Sony Smart Watch as a Christmas present, and I’m just getting used to what it can do. I’ll post a review in due course.

The main challenges for 2016 will be to try to consolidate my research activities, which don’t seem very strong at the moment, to make a useful contribution in my political activities, and to help the RSC Solid State Chemistry Group maintain a secure financial position. Let’s hope I succeed!

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