Neither gone nor forgotten, just buried under a mountain of obligations. Sorry for the gap in blog posts, hope that these will resume with greater regularity as I finally find a bit of clear water through the myriad of responsibilities that too sadly mirror what many of my friends and colleagues experience.
Last Thursday, a group of ten members of the University of Glasgow attended the awards ceremony for the Queen’s Anniversary Prize at Buckingham Palace. As well as our Chancellor (Prof. Sir Kenneth Calman) and Vice-Chancellor (Prof. Anton Muscatelli), were myself, two key founding members of the Centre (Barb Mable and Richard Reeve), as well as five younger scientists who represent the engine of our research, the postdoctoral scientists (Richard Orton and Sunny Townsend) and Ph.D. students (Minnie Parmiter, Joaquin Prada, and Caroline Millins). After gathering in front of the Palace we were led in for the main ceremony where two individuals (for Glasgow, Anton Muscatelli and myself) received the award and a scroll from the Queen and Prince Phillip. I’m not exactly a monarchist, but neither am I a republican, and I do have a healthy respect for the role that the titular head of state has to play, and the usefulness (indeed importance) of separating out the ceremonial function of the head of state from the operational requirements of its “chief executive”. Plus I’m a sucker for a bit of history (so maybe I am a monarchist, of sorts). Monarchist or republican, there is no denying the grandeur one is presented with when entering Buckingham Palace, or the impact of being ushered into the room in which we received the award. Afterwards there was an informal meet and greet with the Queen and all the members of our group (where our good Dr. Orton somehow managed to promote the admittedly excellent work at Imperial College on SARS, rather than his own equally excellent work on FMD virus 🙂 ). The Queen seemed particularly impressed at the breadth of research going on, with every person she was introduced to working on yet another disease with real impact on human and animal health. Remarkably the Palace made what was a very formal occasion quite relaxed, a trick that takes real skill. Following the reception, the group of Boyd Orr Centre members gathered outside the palace for a few photos. It was a decidedly enjoyable day, one that was made so by the fact that it occurred amongst colleagues and friends.
As noted in the last blog post, the QAP award is given for both excellence of research but also the impact that research has on the real world, and this is a combination that the Boyd Orr Centre excels at. The brief citation read out as we entered to receive the prize said:
The Boyd Orr Centre is recognized for the scientific excellence and
global impact of its work on infectious diseases to benefit the health
and livelihoods of agricultural communities and wildlife conservation.
This work goes on through the combined efforts of all of its members, from the least experienced student or technician, to the increasingly grey heads of those who lead it. A small group and only recently formed, its impact has been remarkable and it is a group that I am very proud to be a part of. This blog also seems a very good place to ‘officially’ announce my stepping down as Director of the Centre, effective as of now. The award of the prize is indeed an excellent book end to my tenure. Its been a fantastic experience, but I’ve been acting as Director of the Centre for long enough and its time for others to inject some new energy into it. One of the things I’d like to see more of are initiatives that improve the linkages across Garscube and Gilmorehill. Considering the difficulties that even such small distances present for communication and collaboration, I don’t think we do too badly but, like marriages, is something that in my view should not be taken for granted, always needs to be worked on, and could always be done better. One way to do so is by expanding the responsibilities – being based largely at Garscube I often feel like I don’t know enough about what happens at Gilmorehill and thus some ‘directorial’ responsibilities across both campuses would have some benefits. Coherent with a consensus of the principal investigators of the Centre, a new leadership based on a co-Directorship between Richard Reeve and Louise Matthews will provide tangible, novel benefits to the Centre. They are both founding members and have been committed to the Boyd Orr Centre from the start, and thus if a joint Directorship is going to work they are in a good place to make it so as Louise (based at Garscube) and Richard (at Gilmorehill) both already expend a considerable effort keeping up an active presence in both campuses. While I shall continue to work on behalf of the Centre (including a commitment to continue this blog), I and others are confident that this new co-directorship will bring the Centre forward in a substantial way.