I have now been in Cambridge for almost exactly two years. Most of the time it feels as if I only arrived yesterday! Three things that continue to strike me about it are the following. First, the breadth and depth of scientific excellence across the Clinical School, the associated Institutions on the site including the LMB and Cambridge University Hospitals, and the broad University. I still feel that I have a lot to learn in terms of understanding how the University works administratively and financially. On the whole I think this is because it is rather intricate, not because I am particularly slow on the uptake. Very positive aspects are that this is a University which is really run by the academic community in a complex, democratic fashion. Of course this doesn’t always equate to the fastest and most transparent way of getting things done! If you or I think there is something that should be done differently it really is important to engage and make our voices heard.
Highlights of the last couple of weeks include a good lunchtime meeting in the Cancer Institute Lecture Theatre at which Mene Pangalos told us about the plans for AstraZeneca’s new building and how they intend to partner with academics. Do have a look at their website if you’re interested in finding out more http://openinnovation.astrazeneca.com/
On 2nd September I went to a talk by Sir Colin Blakemore and a dinner to celebrate the centenary of the Physiological Laboratory on the Downing site This underlined just how important the Cambridge Laboratory was in key breakthroughs in physiology and in particular on the contributions of Edgar Adrian, Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley to electrophysiology. I was also involved in welcoming a visit from the European Academy of Cancer Sciences which is aiming to accredit European Centres of Excellence. This was a pilot assessment and I am very grateful to all those who worked hard on it. Although the formal report is awaited the panel were extremely impressed by what they saw and one of them said that ‘Cambridge defines excellence’. It was a pleasure for me to agree – but there is absolutely no room for complacency!
Over the summer we ran a competition for a prize of up to £3,000 for public engagement funded by our Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Funds. As you may be aware, many funders including the Wellcome Trust are very keen to see effective public engagement. Personally, I am very supportive of this, especially as I feel we have many outstanding communicators and this is an area in which we can excel. The entries were impressive and the prizewinners are Timothy Rittmann and Saber Sami (see below for more details).