Summer Graduation 2012Posted: October 5, 2012
I don’t often manage this because of conferences and other commitments, but this year I was actually in Bristol for the summer graduation week and so attended the graduation of two of my project students, Helen Skinner and Alex Koumi. In the 2011/2012 academic year, Helen worked on a computational mechanistic study of the catalytic cycle for rhodium(I) catalysed hydroformylation as her BSc project and Alex worked on calculating ligand parameters for bidentate ligands with mixed donors (P, N, S, O), similarly for his BSc.
If you’ve never been to a graduation ceremony, members of the academic staff are required to join the procession and sit on stage, wearing the robes of the university which awarded their highest degree. It is supposed to be a proud and solemn occasion, but this generally provides considerable entertainment to staff beforehand in the robing room, and also, I’m sure, to the graduands and proud parents sitting in the audience. It would be good to have a spotters guide sometimes, or maybe some kind of competition where you have to find and identify staff from at least 10 different institutions. To give you an idea, my PhD is from Keele University and while the robe colours are quite reasonable (mostly black with yellow and red accents, and no, similarities to a certain national flag are accidental), the PhD robe basically has wings, with an extra couple of feet of material, sown into pointy talon shape, extending beyond where your hands exit the sleeve (sorry, digital cameras weren’t all that common when I graduated and mobile phones still looked like bricks and only worked as phones, so I don’t have a picture to hand to illustrate the full glory). But it is a little weird. I mean, wings?! I’m sure there was a brilliant metaphor when somebody designed this, but really, wings? When I wore it for the first time at my own graduation, I actually thought all PhD robes were like that, and I have met 1 or 2 colleagues in robes with much shorter wings, although I forget which university those were from, but this is not the norm. Still, at least the colours are wearable.
This year, Chemistry graduates were rather unfortunate, because it was raining an awful lot on the day, so photos had to be taken indoors. As you might guess from the strained smiles above, we were being jostled and distracted while Helen’s father tried to get us all in shot. The second photo, after my winged robe came off, shows much happier faces. And it’s nice to see two more students heading off to new adventures after they’ve worked their socks off for me. Cheerio!