2009 Departmental Annual Recess
Nearly 250 researchers attended this year's recess
Members of the Department demonstrated that they can work hard and play hard at their annual recess at St. Catherine's College at the end of April. Two full days of research talks, poster presentations from third-year D.Phil students, and informal chats, culminated in a Ceilidh with a live band accompaniment.
This is the Department's third annual recess, a tradition instigated by the Head of Department, Professor Kim Nasmyth when he came into the post. 'It gets better and better every year, ' says Professor Neil Brockdorff, 'I've been for all three years and this has been the best one.' Although an annual recess is par for the course in University departments in the States, UK University departments are only now coming round to the idea of holding them.
This is the second year the recess has been held at St Catherine's College
The Department of Biochemistry in Oxford is one of the largest in the world with around 400 research staff members including 150 postgraduate students. It brings together a very broad array of research areas including cell biology, developmental biology, genetics, structural biology and computational biology. The annual recess is the one occasion in the year when all the members come together in a relaxed setting that is conducive to informal discussions and outside their normal working environment.
Following the pattern of previous years, the recess showcased around 20 lectures from many of the Department's 37 groups. These reflected the multidisciplinary research in the Department, covering topics from DNA and chromosome dynamics to the biology of the influenza and HIV viruses.
The Ceilidh in full swing
For the Department's postgraduate students, the recess offers a particularly good opportunity to catch up with each other about work and also socially. Christina Mayer, a second-year student, does not meet many of her fellow students in her normal working environment because she needs to use the NMR machine and therefore works outside the main Biochemistry building. 'It's good to meet other people and see what they are doing,' she agrees, 'Other people might give you a few tricks.'
Chatting over coffee in the Spring sunshine
Dr Mary Gregoriou, Director of Graduate Studies, manages the graduate student programmes in the Department. This involves a lot of interaction with students and their supervisors, but less with the detailed scientific research. She enjoys the recess very much. 'It's a chance for me to catch up with the research in the Department, ' she says, 'We have postdocs, students and group leaders as speakers to make it as varied as possible.'
When people were not indoors for the lectures or poster sessions, they enjoyed the beautiful grounds of St Catherine's College in the warm and sunny Spring weather.