Thursday 28 February
This is to be a trip that combines science and Wolfson. First I arrive in Baltimore for the Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society. This is my last year on the executive committee of the Society, of which I am a Fellow. After the unseasonably warm February in the UK, the cold weather is a shock; there are flurries of snow as I drive in from the airport.
During a day off from the scientific programme, Sian and I host an alumni brunch with the Oxford and Cambridge Club in Washington, DC. The Club is located in Georgetown, a lovely part of DC, and it is a charming venue. We were delighted to greet about 30 guests, some who were at Wolfson when David Williams was President. They still have fond memories of the conversation around the dining table with David and his wife, Sally. There is also one of our current students who is on a four-year PhD programme in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health. One of the alumni we met at the brunch, Nesrine Nagui (MPhil Engineering, 2008), was featured in our recent Women of Wolfson series.
Monday & Tuesday
I am immersed in biophysics: talks, posters, and discussions with colleagues from across the globe. I love being President of Wolfson College but I do miss having a lab!
The conference is over, so I say goodbye to my network of scientific friends and collaborators and board the train to New York. It is even colder here, with a bitter wind. But it is New York, a place one cannot tire of!
In the morning we visit Cambridge in America to discuss how they can use their resources to help us better keep in touch with our alumni in the States. To my delight, this involves a two-mile stroll through the heart of Manhattan from Greenwich Village, where our hotel is located.
Our event in New York this evening was very special indeed. We were generously hosted by Michi Jakob (1992) in his amazing rooftop apartment in downtown Manhattan (I admit to house envy).
The alumni here were quite different to those we met in DC, a very international collection of former students who had come to Wolfson from five continents and have now ended up in New York. As Michi said, “We just have to look at this gathering and realise that there is hope for a world which has such dynamic and cosmopolitan communities.” Thank you Michi for a really warm welcome.
In addition to a couple of current part-time students, we were also glad to meet four new students who will be coming to Wolfson next year. Our networks across the world can certainly play a role supporting our incoming students. We are looking forward to welcoming these newcomers when they arrive in Cambridge in October.
We take the train to Boston and remark that we certainly did this trip the wrong way around as it is colder still, with piles of snow, making Baltimore look positively balmy.
Again we hold a brunch, this time in our hotel. We have relatively few alumni in Boston and interestingly, here they are largely in academia or in entrepreneurial roles which spring from the large academic community in the Boston area, much like they do at Cambridge. As well as another prospective student, we were also joined by members of the Oxford and Cambridge Society of New England, and we were pleased to share with them our pride in what Wolfson has to offer.
Meeting prospective students reminds me that we have to continue to work hard to raise funds for scholarships. Two of the five students we met are searching for funds. They have been accepted to Cambridge and Wolfson for postgraduate studies but they are seeking scholarships to enable them to take up their places.
Overall this was a great trip. We were pleased to see how many of our alumni came to see us and to hear how warmly they remember Wolfson. It is heartening to hear how much they would like to keep in touch and stay involved in the future of the College. It is also a reminder of just how diverse our community is, including academics, entrepreneurs, military officers, journalists, engineers, lawyers and financiers; we have alumni in the arts and the sciences, the charitable sector and in politics. It was also interesting to see that different cities have different flavours.
We look forward to building on this visit again next year. Thank you for letting us bring a bit of Wolfson to America!