Friday, 27 September 2013

Here comes semester

It seems that friends, family and colleagues at many universities are already back in the rhythm of semester time.  Here, however, today is that last day of "week minus one", the week that comes before freshers' week when the new students arrive and settle in, which is itself before teaching starts in earnest in the following week.  It's going to be an interesting time in the Physics Department.  We have a record intake of around 120 new starters, which is going to make things busier than before, but having a lot of people wanting to come here to study Physics is a good problem to have.  I'm sure there are lots of reasons why more people want to study physics, and more people want to come and study here.  It's certainly been a good year for the Uni in terms of league tables, and as much as I am equivocal about league tables, given they exist it is mainly a good thing to do well in them.

The transition to semester time will mean that I will spend a lot more time teaching undergraduate courses;  this semester I'm teaching courses in special relativity, some basic computer programming for first year students, and some more advanced computational techniques for final year students.  I do like teaching, and I like interacting with the students, but the change in tempo is quite daunting, and the responsibilities of research and administration do not alter when semester starts. 

The last weeks have featured a lot of grant preparation, some course validation document-writing, research collaborations, including finishing writing up one paper which I started writing a couple of years ago (thanks to the prompting from a visit from my old postdoc who has been here this week), writing up another paper on quantum biology (which I should be finishing up, rather than posting this), and contributing to a third substantial one which documents a code we have been using for some years and are preparing to publish.  

Aside from semester-time activities, I'm hopefully going to Italy in a few weeks to take part in a workshop organised by my colleague Arnau.  I say hopefully, because it depends a bit on the impending birth of my daughter.  Then in the not-very-much-longer term, I will (also hopefully) be running the 10 miles of the Great South Run in Portsmouth.  I had been slacking in the training for that, but yesterday morning hoiked myself out of bed early, and ran for about five miles.  The graphic associated with this post shows my run, and you should be able to see it in more detail by clicking on it.  I am also planning to raise some money, through sponsorship for the run, for the mental health charity MIND.  I'll make a separate (begging) post about that in due course.

Still, looking on an even shorter term than Monday of freshers' week, is this weekend.  As well as the day job, I am a warden on campus, meaning that I live here and provide a combination of pastoral care and disciplinary action within the campus residence.  It also means I'll be very busy greeting people arriving this weekend, helping to welcome our new arrivals no matter what course they are studying.