by Prof Jeff Errington
I turned 60 on the 3rd of May. The year leading up to that was traumatic for me because, psychologically, it felt like a turning point in life – a long and enjoyable career behind me but a rapidly foreshortening window ahead! Surprisingly, things suddenly looked up when the birthday actually arrived (last Tuesday) – I didn’t really feel any different!
And then I had a really exciting science symposium and lab reunion to look forward to, which took place on Friday (mostly science) and Saturday (mostly fun!).
So many wanted to come!
We wondered how many of the past members of the lab would be able to make it, given that they were scattered to the four corners of the earth and we had no funds to cover their expenses. To my astonishment and delight, over 20 lab alumni agreed to come, and we were able to fill all of the 16 speaker slots with alumni from outside Newcastle.
The speakers came from 4 different continents, and though most were high powered talks on bacterial cell biology, other topics extended through yeast and worms to bat wing development!
A day of great science – and warm friendship
I was overwhelmed by the experience: seeing so many old friends again, the fantastic quality and quantity of science, and the showering of gifts and kind words.
I was of course obliged to attempt some profound words at the closing. What struck me was that I could not work out what it was that I had done which had resulted in such an amazing scientific legacy.
The only thing that I can think of is that if you can once assemble a critical mass of good scientists, which includes a few very good people, the culture or ecology of the lab becomes self sustaining. New people coming into the lab are well trained and inspired by the existing members, and they in turn go on to succeed in their own right. My job mainly becomes one of trying to make sure that the environment and infrastructure of the lab is capable of enabling good scientists to achieve their potential.
We all agreed that it had been a great idea to get everyone back together again and we plan to have another reunion (outside of any special birthday) again in a few years’ time.