On parade

The University of Bath alumni blog

Posts By: Gavin Maggs

Happy Birthday Bath!

📥  Uncategorized

Thanks to our alumni who sent their best wishes to the University for our birthday on Tuesday. Here are some of your messages. Don't forget you can also wish us Happy Birthday via twitter.


Thank you very much for reminding me of the Bath University 50th year Birthday.
Happy birthday to Bath Uni.! !
Just visiting the Bath Facebook, wishing you all the wonderful birthday.

With best wishes,

Kaori Hara
Tokyo, Japan


My warm greetings from Brisbane where I am for a visit. Since I left Bath many things have changed in my life I have a good career as humanitarian and soon I am having a family. I thank you for your continuous updates and for keeping me close to my cherished University. I am happy to hear the good news from Bath. For this special day I am proud to be part of the big family of University of Bath. I wish you a happy and fabulous anniversary to all of you and long life to our University. Let keep grow more and spread our wings across the world. Happy 50 anniversary to Bath.

Kenny Theophile Nkundwa


birthday card

A Pea Birthday!

A Pea Birthday!
Thank you for the messages. Sorry we cannot be there.
Have a great day and evening!
Malcolm + Donna Hecks


Thank you very much for sending this email to me. I am so glad today is our university's birthday. I want to say "Happy birthday to my dear BATH" sincerely. The study time in BATH is so wonderful. Thank you very much my dear BATH and have a good day.

Qiulu Ding
From Shanghai. China


May the university continue to achieve further progress in all its objectives to benefit the community, the society and the world.
God bless,



I have had the great pleasure of being associated with the University from its very earliest years, prior to the award of its Royal Charter and since. I wish to record my sincerest appreciation of the professional support and guidance given to me during my full-time secondment from Avon County Council in 1987, and later following early retirement, leading to the Degree of MPhil (Education).

During my Further Education lecturing career over 25 years, the University regularly hosted students from my Business Studies Department, and several went on to be appointed to posts within the University. This was one of the first Work Experience Schemes (1964) in the region for FE students, and I was always impressed by the great support the College received from the University staff. The College reciprocated by hosting students from the University for Teaching Practice.

As the nominee of the Bristol and West of England Branch of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators and the Secretary of State for Education, I served as a Professional Business Member on the City of Bath Further Education Corporation for 13 years from 1988, Vice Chair for the final 3 years. I am particularly pleased to record that throughout these years, and since, the College and the University have developed very close professional links.

I am very proud to have been associated with the University over all these years. BATH IS NOW ONE OF THE TOP BRITISH UNIVERSITIES!! WHAT AN ACHIEVEMENT!! VERY WELL DONE TO ALL OF YOU!!!!

Stan Nicholls
MPhil (Education) ACIS


Many congratulations on 50 years of contribution to learning and development! Loved my years at Bath (1972-1976 Pharmacology) – will always hold such a special place in my heart. So sorry to miss this wonderful celebration and look forward to revisiting next year when we return to UK for a sojourn.
Would love to connect with other graduates from Pharmacology 1976 – Carol Waring, Ann Brown, Dave Parkinson, Mike Tomkins. Are you out there?

Dr Christine A Phillips
Gold Coast Australia


Happy birthday to dear BATH!

Crystal Feng


At my instigation and with local coordination by Tom Longridge (as I live in Fleet, Hampshire) there have been two sessions of bell ringing today to mark the University's anniversary.

First, 10 of us (some with a university connection) rang for 15 minutes after the celebratory event in the Abbey.

This evening, eight of us - all with University connections - rang a quarter peal. That was 1250 changes taking 45 minutes.

The full details are available through the following links to the ringing website, BellBoard.



You are welcome to share this with the University organisation more widely if you wish.

James White
Mathematics BSc. 1990


Happy Birthday!

Lester Ferguson
NSW, Australia


A great milestone for the University and the Bath Community. As an early student (and I well remember the wonderful ceremony in Bath Abbey) I wish all the present and past community of students, Alumni and wider community a truly memorable celebration and wish I could be with you. It is very pleasing to see how the university has prospered and grown in stature since its inception when we had only one building on the site and all lived in digs around the town sometimes to the consternation of the locals. Have a great time.

Best wishes,
Angela (Bailey) Delves
NSW, Australia


Congratulate you on the 50th anniversary! I am proud I have graduated from this University.

I wish you prosperity and success!

Evgenia Belova


Congratulations to everyone on our 50th Anniversary. As a student during the 10th Anniversary my memories are still very strong of wonderful times there and learning then that still helps me now.

Roy Kirkby


I remember well the day I was offered a place in 1967 and the following Sunday took my wife and children to visit the Campus

It consisted in those days of a singular square block that eventually became the Biology faculty.

Walking around it there was not much to see or say, but my wife commented on an attractive plant in one of the windows.

The rest, as the saying goes, is history!

Ken Riley
Sociology, Class of 71


Thank you for sharing this celebration.
As a graduate of the Bath University Masters Degree in Construction Management 1999 (Distance Learning + two Residential Schools) I am excited to share in the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the University. Especially so as we here in Barbados will celebrate our 50th Anniversary as an Independent Nation on November 30 this year. I join Adminstrators, Faculty, Students, Alumini, Donors and Friends of Bath University in celebrating the growth and excellence of this great University and am very happy that I was fortunate to be part of that experience. I look forward to continued participation in whatever small way in the life of this great institution of learning accessible to the whole world. The greetings in many languages across the world attest to the reach of your teaching and learning. I am very proud to be a part of it. Congratulations.

Erskine Thompson


With best wishes for a wonderful day.

Sorry I couldn’t make it as it’s also the 50th anniversary of my graduation.
Peter Jones


From small beginnings look at the Uni now! I'm so glad I went to Bath Uni! Those many years ago.

Brock Hoaran


My hearty best wishes to Bath and all on its 50th!!!

Have a great day and I trust the reception is lots of fun.

Peter W Marshall, Eco & Pol 1982


I feel deeply identified with this transcendental date of the anniversary of my University.

My best wishes for the professors, lecturers, researchers, administrative personnel, students and the whole community of Bath University, specially for the Masters course on International relations and Development Studies (then) .

Maria Gutierrez, Peru


Happy Birthday
I well remember 50 years ago as it was then that I was one of the very first batch of students to graduate from Bath University as it had just become. Of course, as the Engineering department was still in Ashley Down in Bristol the only time I visited the University Campus was for an end of course dinner. The graduation ceremony took place in the Assembly Rooms in Bath.
Happy Birthday again.
David G Rosser, BSc Bath 1966


Happy Birthday! 🙂

Hope it went well today (and goes well this evening) - I've been thinking of you all!

I think a great big celebratory cake is in order from the winner of the bake off sweepstake!



Thank you for the invitation and information. It would have been nice to attend the celebrations but it's a bit far for me to come.

The university seems to have changed enormously since the first generations of students (that includes me) were there. I remember the lake with lots of space around it (fortunately I was never enrolled for a dunking, that activity was the province of the more harum-scarum elements), and the refectory in which I worked for a while "polishing the silver" as the forewoman called it (most people would have said drying the cutlery).

But it's still the same chug up that hill. I used to walk from my various digs in town (Audley Park amongst others) to the university and back, to save busfare. It was beautiful and I daresay it still is, but I wonder if anybody does that any more.

Are the terraces there still? I was in Conygre Terrace and thought it was great!

All the best for the next 50 years.

Shirley Boss


It has been 21 years since finishing my MSc in IEM at Bath. It gives me great pleasure being able to join remotely with all of you in celebrating the 50th Birthday of Bath University. I am happy that Bath University has been making steady progress as a world renowned higher learning institute. I wish Bath University a wonderful 50th Birthday.

M W Leelaratne, Nugegoda


My name is Tianxiang Zhang who graduated from University of Bath in 2015. I send this mail for sharing my wishes to my loved university.

"Happy Birthday, University of Bath. I wish more and more young students enjoy their lives and studies in the perfect environment you provides. And also, I wish University of Bath can get better achievements on academic researches."

Kind Regards,
Tianxiang Zhang

Fabulous celebration of the first 50 Years for University of Bath, in the Abbey, with super speeches, marvellous music, astonishing a Capella, diverting dance and fantastic films featuring students, alumni, staff, supporters and academics, all in a spectacular setting...

Barry Gilbertson


Thanks for keeping us informed. Let's have such birthdays celebrated also in our countries

Dr Desire M Sibanda


Happy Birthday Bath University!

The Rev.d Preb. Angela Berners-Wilson
Rector : Quantock Towers Benefice


Happy Anniversary !

Wish our university grow in prosperity rapidly, and all of U in Bath a wonderful night !

I am currently in China and work in PwC Shanghai Office. I'm wondering what would be like in the celebration at Bath Abbey ! 🙂

Best Regards,



Today on the 50th Birthday of University of Bath، a great university, and amongst "top 10" university within UK, I congratulate the faculty, students, staff and the leadership / management of the university, and wish all the best to this university for many successful years to come in education, research, including sports and other activities, and as one of the worlds top UK university.

I feel privileged to have been a Graduate student of this great university, and completed MSc in Electrical Power Systems in 2005.

With all the best wishes,

Noorali Amarsi


Happy birthday. I am so proud of being the student here.

Qu Nyi Zeng


Hiiiii My Bath Uni,

Happy birthday to you!!!!!!!!!
And really miss those precious time you gave me!!!!!!
Love u !
Please keep that lovely all the time and I'll be back one day!!!

With Best Regards
Chang Ding


Happy birthday to the best university in the world!

Happy birthday and thanks to all of you who work diligently to make the university of bath a better place for all!

Best wishes,


As one of the select band of students who were the first to go through in Bath I have many memories of my four years, including attending the service in the Abbey. I am still in touch with a number of those who were there with me and I still sometimes have work contacts with current staff at the University. It was an interesting experience with initially only about 200 students in Bath in the then preliminary building, but we had a fantastic vice-chancellor in George Moore, who was brilliant. My, how you have grown!

John Fawell, Applied Biology 1969


Happy 50th Birthday! It was my 56th yesterday #classof84

Paul Butler


Happy Birthday to the University of Bath: I suspect I am one of the few people remaining who was at the Bath University of Technology (as it was then) in the South Building of the Claverton Down site on that day 50 years ago!

Graham Stewart


This is great news! Happy Birthday, and congratulations for the 50 year anniversary! ^_^



Happy Birthday, and congratulations for the 50 year anniversary! ^_^

Po-Hsiang (2008/2009 Bath MBA) from Taiwan


Many congratulations and I am so sorry not to have been with you today

With warm regards
Sheila Hollins



Excellent!!! HBD to us all!!




Celebrating our 50th with alumni overseas

📥  Bath, International

I have been accompanying the Vice-Chancellor on a tour of Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore to celebrate our 50th anniversary year with alumni. And bumping into an international rugby star along the way...

Saturday 2 April - The tour begins

We spend a lot of time celebrating how international a university we are, and I'm often heard citing how great it is that we have 100,000 alumni in more than 150 countries, but as I looked at my schedule before leaving the house this Saturday morning, I did sort of wonder - 15,000 miles in five days!

The Vice-Chancellor and I are going to celebrate the University's 50th anniversary, with alumni events in Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore, accompanied by a tag team of Events colleagues: Sarah in Dubai, and Laura in Hong Kong and Singapore - a big 'thank you' for all their help. Record crowds are expected in each venue.

Here's hoping for no delays, and luggage that stays with us all week - oh, and - channeling a previous correspondent - some decent coffee.

Saturday 2 April - Arrival in Dubai

A warm welcome was bound to await us as we arrived into Dubai at midnight, but I confess I was impressed with this set up in the hotel room - and it was edible too!

A warm welcome.

A warm welcome.

As for the Bath duck, was that genius irony, or does everyone get one? It's almost as though they have got their hands on our 50th memorabilia plans...

Dubai duck.

Dubai duck.

Saturday 2 April - Dubai event

One down, two to go. That went really well. A great spread of ages among the graduates, some locals, some expats, a warmly received speech from the Vice-Chancellor (and the technology worked - unlike during my rehearsal...) and we also launched our new Alumni Network here in UAE.

You can see more pictures of the event on our Flickr page.

Alumni event in Dubai

Our Dubai event

Monday 4 April - Celebrity spot

Sean Fitzpatrick, All Blacks legend, on the same plane. He's going to the Hong Kong Sevens; we're not. We shall be in Singapore by then.

As you might imagine, he was absolutely fascinated to hear how it's the Economics & Politics degree from Bath in 2003 that makes Steve Borthwick such an expert when it comes to cracking opposition line out codes. As a proud Scotsman it was difficult for me to wax lyrical about England's Rugby Union success in the 6 Nations, but a Bath graduate is a Bath graduate, and I'll take the opportunity to celebrate their achievements whenever and wherever (even at 39,000 feet above Chittagong if necessary).

Should have asked him what he thought about Luke Charteris (BSc Sport & Exercise Science 2005) touring New Zealand with the Lions next summer.

Neutral territory, the British & Irish Lions - not for "Fitzy" though!

Sean Fitzpatrick

Sean Fitzpatrick

 Tuesday 5 April - Arrival in Hong Kong

Got to the hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui a little before 11pm, a decent flight from Dubai. I can now understand why people have been telling me it's a good idea to break the long trip to the Far East with a stopover in the middle.

A great meeting with Dr Betty Chan (Honorary LLD 2015) among others today, then prepare for this evening's event.

130 alumni have registered for the reception, which could make it our largest ever alumni gathering in Hong Kong.

Lots of HK can make you feel that you're a long way from home, but then, en route from the MTR in Central, you realise in many ways it's just the same as Bristol really.

Harvey Nichols Hong Kong

Harvey Nichols

Except when you see the bamboo scaffolding...

Bamboo scaffolding

Bamboo scaffolding

Tuesday 5 April - Another successful event

Sir CK Chow (Honorary DEng 2001) is a great performer. To observe him working a room is to witness a master at work - definitely hope I can pick up some tips.

Cracking event tonight, fabulous location and venue, and a great crowd.

Another pair of excellent speeches, from the Vice-Chancellor and Sir CK. The biggest "ooh" definitely came for the pictures of student accommodation nowadays - I think we may have recruited quite a few postgrads just on the basis of wanting to return to campus and enjoy the modern comforts!

Student bedroom

Student bedroom

Student kitchen.

Student kitchen

Two events down, one more to go; both great successes. As Sir CK put it, if we have achieved this much in our first 50 years, just imagine what the next 50 could bring!

Off to Singapore at 8.30 in the morning, the penultimate (and shortest) flight.

Thursday 7 April - Arrive in Singapore 

The alumni tell us we need to improve our brand here in Singapore - don't tell the Director of Marketing & Comms. Perhaps we could amend our logo a little to pretend to be this one? I'm sure the United Overseas Bank wouldn't mind.

And I bet Martyn Whalley would love to have a crack at persuading the Bath planners that a neon logo on a 50 storey building would be just the ticket in our 50th Anniversary year!

United Overseas Bank logo

United Overseas Bank logo

Thursday 7 April - Singapore event

Here's the calm before the storm (a phrase you can say a lot in Singapore, although actually we haven't been caught in the rain yet).

The High Commissioner's residence

The High Commissioner's residence

That's the third and last event done - another success. Now there's just the small matter of 300+ follow up emails to send, conversations to pursue regarding placements, mentoring, donations, research partnerships, visits back to Bath, and everything else you try desperately to retain having had hundreds of conversations. Thank goodness for business cards and the visual cue they can give.

Only one fly in the ointment - the High Commissioner's visitors' book revealed that we somehow managed to let a Bristol graduate through the net! I'm all for GW4, but really, that's a bit much...

The visitor's book

The visitor's book

Fly home tonight, land at 5.10 tomorrow morning in Heathrow. I will be out training the U10 boys and girls rugby by 9.30 - looking forward to it. It's always good for the soul when the little terrors reveal quite how unimpressed they are by where you've been in the last week - puts it all into perspective.

A great trip, though, real enthusiasm for the University, for the roles that alumni can play to support us, excellent venues, record turnouts, money raised, and no technology hiccups.

My thanks to Laura Andrews and all the team back at the ranch in DDAR for helping to make it all look so easy - it's not, and the people who matter know how much work goes into it.

I'll shut up now - that's more than enough blogging from me...


Meeting Bath's finalist at the British Council International Alumni Awards

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📥  International

Dr Toby Jenkins, Erdem Aydin and Professor Tony James at the British Council International Alumni Awards 2016

Dr Toby Jenkins, Erdem Aydin and Professor Tony James at the British Council International Alumni Awards 2016

Dr Toby Jenkins and Professor Tony James have just returned from a whirlwind tour of Turkey, where they attended a Medical Biotechnology Workshop at at the TUSSIDE Conference Hall, TÜBİTAK Gebze Campus from 17-18 February 2016.

The workshop is part of the UK-Turkey year of Science and Innovation sponsored by the UK Science and Innovation Network and the British Council. The aim of the workshop was to build networks with the aim of applying for both Newton-Katip Celebi and Horizon 2020 funding.

Tony writes:

During our visit we attended the prestigious British Council International Alumni Awards Ceremony in Istanbul at the British Consulate. We had the pleasure to meet Erdem Aydin, a PoLIS alumnus and reporter on the International News Desk at CNN Turk, who was a finalist for the ‘Professional Achievement’ category.

Erdem was exceptionally positive about his time in Bath and grateful for the excellent support he received during his for his time in Bath. Toby - a keen cyclist - was happy to hear that one thing Erdem particularly missed from Bath was the cycle ride to the University. The traffic in Istanbul currently prevents him from cycling.

When we bumped into him he was busy getting updates about the then-breaking news about the Ankara bombing. He is a true professional reporter, more concerned about the news than worrying about the award ceremony.

While Erdem did not win the category, he is an exceptional alumnus who will continue to spread the good word about Bath as he excels in his journalistic career.


Let it snow!

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📥  Bath, On campus

One of the biggest up-sides of preparing for our fast-approaching 50th anniversary is looking at the collection of your photos from the 'old days' which you have kindly been sending in to us. We've been putting some of the best on our Flickr photostream - thank you for sharing your memories with us.

In a bid to get into the festive spirit early this year, we're looking for Christmassy photos from your time at Bath. Snowmen on the Parade, Christmas parties, you get the idea!

We will be creating an album on Flickr of your seasonal student snaps and, you never know, one of your photos might even make it on to our alumni Christmas card…

If you would like your photo to be included in our album, please send a scanned or digital image (as high-res as possible) to alumni@bath.ac.uk. Please include as much information as possible, including the year it was taken and anyone you can name in the picture.

University of Bath snowball fight on the Parade

Here’s a starter for ten. Can anyone name the three combatants?


Bath alumni meet up Down Under

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📥  International

On a Spring September evening in Melbourne, around 20 alumni gathered in a suitable watering hole to share memories of their time in Bath and stories of how they ended up in Australia. We were honoured to be joined by David Hancocks , the University of Bath’s ‘Graduate No. 1’, having been first up to collect his degree certificate for Architecture in 1966. David spent most of his working life in Seattle but is now in Melbourne and enjoying life in this thriving city, recently named named the world's most liveable city for the fourth year in a row.

The three Davids

The three Davids: David Chuter ((BEng Manufacturing Systems 1992), David Hancocks (BSc Architecture & Building Engineering 1966) and David Suder (MSc Industrial Systems 1992)

Many of the alumni came to our first gathering last year so it was great to catch up with each other, share stories of trips back to the UK and talk about the changes that people have seen in Bath on their recent visits. It was also fantastic to welcome new faces, some of whom were recent arrivals to Melbourne. Some were putting their degrees to good use whilst others had ended up in careers quite different to their studies. Everyone remembered their time at Bath very fondly and looked forward to their next visit.

Australians have developed a love of cider but we all agreed that it wasn’t quite the same as the scrumpy served in the Beehive - many were sad to hear that it’s no longer a pub. We look forward to catching up again next year!

Isobel Michael (BA MLES German & Russian 1991)


Behind the scenes of the Large Hadron Collider

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📥  Bath, International

As a Bath graduate based in Geneva, and the CEO of the world’s largest cancer NGO, the link between the University and CERN is for me, a compelling one. And one which, amazingly, came about due to a chance alumni connection.

In a nutshell, engineers from my old university are adapting technologies from the Large Hadron Collider to find ways to treat lung cancer tumours more effectively.

CERN group around collider

At the Large Hadron Collider

Dr Steve Hancock, who studied physics at Bath in 1980, had been working on 3D imaging technologies at CERN for over 20 years. He had the idea that the type of imaging used to examine tiny particles moving close to the speed of light could be beneficial in medical treatments too. So when he saw a tomography laboratory at the University mentioned in an alumni e-newsletter, he was inspired to get back in touch with Bath academics.

A year on and, alongside Dr Manuch Soleimani from the University’s Electrical Engineering Department, they secured £100,000 of funding from CERN to work together on the application of his technology. Lung cancer is particularly difficult to treat as the tumours move a lot within the body due to the motion of breathing. This makes it difficult for surgeons to remove all of the cancer without damaging healthy lung tissue. Bath and CERN’s technology should help surgeons to see the real time movement of cancer tumours in the body, and will hopefully one day translate into an affordable product that hospitals around the world can use. The project has the potential to impact the lives of thousands of cancer patients and is a great example of how blue skies research at CERN can turn up incredible and unexpected applications.

And where do I come in? I founded a Bath alumni group in Geneva a few years ago, because I wanted to help fellow graduates find their feet in the city, make friends and get on in their careers. We’re a mix of generations, working in all kinds of areas, from the UN and NGOs to pharmaceuticals and corporate finance. We try to meet up at least twice a year for drinks or dinner to share our experiences of working in Switzerland, have fun, and help each other in any ways that we can, such as passing on job opportunities.

To celebrate Bath’s new partnership (and the happy accident of our living in the city where the world’s most talked about science takes place right under our feet), the Alumni team at Bath arranged a special opportunity for our group to visit CERN in July.

Matthew Wilson, one of our newest members of the group, at CERN's Large Hadron Collider

Matthew Wilson, one of our newest members of the group, at the Large Hadron Collider

Our day began with a welcome from their ‘Head of Beams’, Paul Collier. Beams, we were to learn, are what they accelerate around the 27km long ring of tunnels which lie 150m below ground, before they collide in the Large Hadron Collider. While the beams are circling the ring it is the coldest place in the Universe, due to the liquid helium cooling the giant magnetic tubes, then the hottest place in the Universe when they collide, hotter than the centre of our sun! This was the first of many awe-inspiring facts and sights.

I was surprised to learn that CERN employs many more engineers than physicists - it is the engineers who designed and built CERN’s giant instruments. One point, particularly pertinent to a university like Bath, is that without the engineering and computing behind CERN, there would have been no Higgs Boson Particle, or World Wide Web (which was invented there).

The highlight of the day was descending down the lifts to see one of the Large Hadron Collider experiments, CMS. This was special access we’d only been granted because of Bath’s links to CERN, and it was a truly magnificent, Sci-Fi-esque vision. By this point the science had gone a little over our heads, with talk of quarks, laptons and fermions, but you couldn’t help but be impressed by the human achievement. When they conceived the idea of the Large Hadron Collider, the engineers and scientists hadn’t a clue how they would turn it into a reality, but through ingenuity and perseverance they succeeded.

This event was the first of its kind in for us in Geneva, and I would like to thank everyone who made it possible for us to gain such an amazing insight into the world of CERN. I look forward to seeing how Bath’s research project progresses and hope that this partnership will be the start of something remarkable.

Cary Adams (BSc Economics, Computing and Statistics 1985, MBA Business Administration 2002) is  Chief Executive of the Union for International Cancer Control and the leader of Bath’s alumni Chapter in Geneva.


Goodbye... and hello!

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📥  Bath, On campus

Do you remember your graduation day?

It can be a bit… well… emotional, as you say goodbye to the place you’ve called home for the last three years or more. But it’s also a new beginning.

Three days of ceremonies in the Abbey last week – many presided over by our new Chancellor, HRH The Earl of Wessex – saw thousands of students become Bath graduates.

Every year, we in the Alumni Relations team take time out to greet new graduates, their families and friends, and press a goody bag into their hands. It’s one of the highlights of the year for us when, on behalf of Bath alumni everywhere, we welcome new graduates into our thriving alumni community.

Graduation 2014 goodbye

Raise a glass to that...

This year we also asked new graduates to record their “Goodbye” – what they would miss about Bath ...

... or “Hello” – what they were looking forward to next.

Graduation 2014 hello

Enjoy it 🙂

See more Hellos and Goodbyes in our Flickr gallery.


BA2: A flying start

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📥  BA2

BA2 2014 How did 140 metres of concrete contribute to Olympic gold?

On a soggy Valentine’s Day evening 2014, students, staff and sporting superstars alike gathered around the TV screens at the University’s Sports Training Village. What brought them together was Bath-based athlete Lizzy Yarnold’s final skeleton run which saw her storm to Olympic victory in Sochi, finishing almost two-tenths of a second ahead of her nearest rival.

British Skeleton has its headquarters at the University; Yarnold trains here, following in the sled tracks of her landlady, graduate Amy Williams, who won gold in the same event at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Despite not having an ice-track in the country for athletes to train on, skeleton is now one of Britain’s most successful Olympic sports. How has the University helped this unlikely rise to dominance?

Tucked away beyond the playing fields at the eastern edge of campus is 140 metres of sloping concrete. The push-start track, built in 2001 with help from Lottery funding, is the only facility of its kind in the UK. It features wheeled sleds running on rails, and allows skeleton and bobsleigh athletes to work on their sprint starts all year round, away from the ice.

Lizzy Yarnold training on the University's concrete push-start track

Lizzy Yarnold training on the University's concrete push-start track

In a skeleton or bobsleigh run, the speed of the start is crucial. It’s calculated that any one-tenth of a second advantage you gain at the top of a run can become three-tenths by the time you reach the bottom. Successful athletes therefore need to have a perfect combination of power and sprinting speed.

The push-start track has an impressive track record (pardon the pun). Athletes who have trained here have won four skeleton medals in four successive Olympic Winter Games: Alex Coomber (bronze in 2002), alumna Shelley Rudman (silver in 2006), then back-to-back Olympic champions Williams and Yarnold.

Now the concrete track is becoming a star in its own right. Since Yarnold’s golden achievement in Sochi, the University, British Skeleton and British Bobsleigh have been inundated with enquiries from people wanting to have a go on the track themselves.

The University’s sports facilities already attract 1.3 million visitors a year, ranging from members of the local community playing a game of tennis, to Olympic and Paralympic athletes such as alumni Samantha Murray and Ben Rushgrove.

Stephen Baddeley, the University’s Director of Sport, says, “Bath is such an attractive university for aspiring young athletes because they are able to combine study with sport, whether it’s swimming, hurdling or skeleton. Successes at the Olympics and Paralympics have raised the profile of what we do here.

“It was terrific to have the opportunity to cheer Lizzy on to gold. Her success was testament to her own effort and also that of her support team. And of course, we are proud to host the headquarters of both British Skeleton and British Bobsleigh.”

Watch Guardian journalist Barry Glendenning try out the track before the Winter Olympics:




BA2: Science in the City


📥  BA2

BA2 2014Many of the great things our University campus provides – world-class sporting facilities, public lectures and evening classes – still involve a hike up the hill for Bath citizens and visitors. But we are also at the heart of life closer to the centre of town. Molly Conisbee explores how University science is infiltrating the city.

The University takes its role as a member of the City of Bath’s wider community very seriously. Whilst the campus buzzes with student life, we are also very much part of the city that hosts us.

It may surprise some to learn that our strong science and engineering tradition is mirrored by the City of Bath that was once famous for the Griffin Engineering works, Stothert & Pitt engineering, mining and other manufacturing and today hosts a thriving tech and digital start-up sector. This means there is a creative backdrop for exciting town and gown collaborations that bring together academics and invited guests to host open public events on matters scientific and technical. These include science cafés, debates and children’s workshops – all organised to enthuse and engage non-expert audiences with some of the big scientific questions and challenges of our time.

Science Cafés – which take place in The Raven pub on Queen Street – offer a diverse take on everything from fracking to food production for a growing world population. Professor Rod Scott, Head of our Department of Biology and Biochemistry, chairs the organising committee. Rod explains that the events were established in part to create a forum for non-experts to learn about and discuss scientific issues.

Bath Science Cafe Feb 2014

Punters enjoying the debate at the Bath Science Cafe

“We see the cafés as helping to develop understanding for people who are interested in science but don’t necessarily hold a science degree. So that when they are discussing issues such as GM crops or green energy with their friends and colleagues, they feel they have some tangible, evidence-based information to build their opinion on.”

“The Science Café has grown and grown,” adds Professor Saiful Islam, one of Rod’s colleagues on the organising committee. “The audiences we get along are genuinely engaged and interested in the issues under discussion.”

“One of the challenges of the way in which science is presented in the media, is that controversial issues like fracking are often polarised into ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ discussions. The cafés are much more nuanced and don’t tend to get monopolised by lobby groups in that way. We are often blown away by the quality of the questions asked during audience discussions.”

The cafés are usually packed out; a great testament to both the quality of speakers, as well as the genuine interest in matters scientific in the community. February’s discussion, which I went along to, featured the BBC’s Sky at Night presenter Chris Lintott, who talked about ‘Tales from the Zooniverse’ – which explored how astronomers are using citizen scientists to help them document the night skies. Aside from being a witty and engaging presenter, Chris made the point very well that often scientists rely on enthusiastic amateurs in order to process the vast amounts of data their work involves. Citing the RSPB, who use members and the public in their annual bird surveys, Chris pointed out that understanding the universe better needs millions of us to record what we see and where and when we see it.

The cafés have a loyal following. Bath resident Nick Moss said, “I find the cafés really fascinating. I’m not a scientist but I’ve always had an interest. I’ve been coming to these for the last three or four years and never experienced a dud talk.” Nick’s friend Ian Clarke added, “I don’t know any more about science than what I learned at school. I’m interested in the issues though; I find the talks here are pitched exactly right for the non-expert like myself.”

It’s not just those of pub-going age who can experience science in the city. Professor Chris Budd, from our Department of Mathematical Sciences, is the engine behind the annual ‘Bath Taps into Science’ fair, which reaches out to more than 1,500 school children and young people across the city every March. Events take place on campus and in the city centre, with a wide range of talks and activities aimed at different age groups to enthuse and inspire about science in general. This year’s fair included an exploration of Enigma-style ‘codebreaking’ as well as short talks from academics about their exciting new research projects.

Chris notes, “Bath Taps works on so many levels, to enthuse young people about science but also to be a two-way exchange between the University and the city. “We’ve been delighted by the response from the community which is why we’re growing every year, hosting science talks and events across the city. But getting students and schools on to campus to experience science in labs and – uniquely – to get students to co-present with scientists has to be one of my favourite parts of the festival. It’s open, democratic and reinforces the message that science belongs to all of us.”

The University’s Head of Public Engagement, Dr Joanna Coleman, sees a key role for citizens in both promoting understanding of science and involving people more in the research that takes place – and also celebrating the achievements of researchers and the benefits of having a university in the city. She believes that “sometimes academic life can appear quite isolated from the wider community – but the high quality research at the University impacts on us all. That’s why we’re committed to getting our researchers into the public domain, and also inviting people to come and explore what’s going on in research, and to get involved with it both in the city and on the campus.”

Responsible for an annual Images of Research exhibition, which happens both on campus and as part of the Fringe Arts Bath Festival, Joanna really sees the value of greater University involvement in city life. “Ultimately, we are funded by the community, we live in this community and we want the community to be proud and part of what we do.”

If you live in or around Bath, come along to the next Science Café – they take place on the second Monday evening of every month. www.bathsciencecafe.org


BA2: The vaccine challenge


📥  BA2

BA2 2014More than 2.5 million children under five die every year from diseases that could be prevented by vaccination. Now one researcher from our Department of Chemistry thinks she may have found a solution to the long-standing challenge of transporting and storing vaccines without refrigeration. Andrew Dunne finds out more.

It was taking her newborn daughter Melinda for routine inoculations at the local doctors’ surgery in 2011 when Dr Asel Sartbaeva experienced her ‘light bulb’ moment for an innovative research idea. Observing that vaccines had to be taken out of a fridge and used almost immediately, she identified a challenge facing public health officials worldwide.

Dr Asel Sartbaeva in her lab

Dr Asel Sartbaeva in her lab

“Vaccines need to be kept between 2˚C and 8˚C. Above or below these temperatures they degrade. So, how do you store and transport vaccines, especially to remote parts of the world where they are so needed?” she explains when we meet.

The answer, she discovered, is a costly and often impractical process of constant refrigeration, otherwise known as the ‘cold chain’. This challenge leads to wastage and leaves vulnerable patients without the life-saving treatments they need. Recent estimates suggest that more than 6 million people around the globe, of whom 2.5 million are children under five, die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases. A recent UNICEF report suggests that transportation costs for vaccines can run to as much as $300 million a year.

“My trip to the doctors really got me thinking,” she tells me. “What if I could use my knowledge of inorganic materials to make vaccines stable at room temperature?”

Drawing on her experience and expertise working with silica-based materials, Asel envisaged an idea for a new nano coating that could protect a vaccine from its environment both in transit and for storage. Using the latest chemistry advances, she set out to show how a protective substance could be grown around individual vaccine molecules, enabling it to be taken anywhere in the world without refrigeration.

Publicising on the world stage

I catch up with Royal Society Research Fellow Asel in the University’s Department of Chemistry, refreshed and invigorated having delivered one of the keynote presentations at a recent Google X Conference in California. “I think it was partly the effect of the Californian sun, and partly the interest and enthusiasm in my project!” she tells me, explaining how her talk, one of only 18 from around the world and one of only two from the UK, generated a lot of interest from both Google X and other organisations globally.

“Google X is about promoting moon shot ideas – ideas that, in a traditional sense, might struggle to get funding but have the potential to make a real impact globally or internationally. I was delighted to be invited, to share a platform with innovative thinkers across different disciplines, and to meet business leaders and policymakers who expressed great interest in my plans.”

Her idea for nano-coating vaccines, which also saw her as runner-up last year for the prestigious L’Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science Fellowship, would produce a lightweight, easy-to-transport, solid material packed with vaccine. “Once doctors were ready to administer the vaccine substance, the protective coating could be broken using either chemical or physical methods such as acids or microwaves,” she explains.

Collaboration with colleagues

By collaborating with colleagues from the University community, including Dr Karen Edler in Chemistry who has provided advice and guidance on using this technique and keeping proteins alive, and Dr Jean van den Elsen from our Department of Biology & Biochemistry who has provided specific expertise on vaccines, Asel has been able to progress her plans quickly.

“It’s true to say this project would not have started had I not come to Bath,” she explains. “I have really benefitted from working together on this with colleagues with expertise in different areas who have helped me to challenge ideas and save a lot of time.” Asel is also supported by postgraduate students Tristan Smith, whom she supervises as part of his MRes, and Yun-Chu Chen, a PhD student.

Thanks to a gift from a Bath graduate, Asel has now been able to get the project off the ground. With further funding, her next challenge is to obtain data from initial tests to prove the concept and to apply the coating to small-body insulin, antibodies and other drugs which currently require cold chains for storage and transport.

A global journey

Originally from Kyrgyzstan, the daughter of an arty family, Asel has always challenged conventions. Her father’s background was in design and architecture, her mother’s in social science. Asel’s parents expected her to study philosophy at university, but instead she saw her future in physical science.

While at high school, the Soviet Union broke up, resulting in immediate economic hardship in her country. Her family could not afford to pay university fees with the only option to get a state scholarship, which she received with a place at Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University, the best in Kyrgyzstan. An up-side of the break up of the Soviet Union was the fall of the Iron Curtain, when it became possible to travel. “There were very limited opportunities, particularly in research, when I graduated, but I knew I wanted to do a PhD to continue my studies”, she says.

Instead, Asel worked for the British Council where by chance she saw an advert which would set her on course for a new life overseas. “At the British Council we had deliveries of various international publications. Everyone always went for the Economist; I was the only one interested in reading the New Scientist. It was in an edition one week that I found a PhD opportunity in Cambridge. I emailed and within four months was on a plane for the first time travelling to the UK.”

At Cambridge, Asel worked in a research group with physicist Dr Stephen Wells – now also at Bath – whom she married in 2002. After other academic appointments at Arizona State University (2005-2007) and Oxford (2007-2012), Asel joined the team at Bath in 2012.

Inspiring a future generation

Asel is passionate about using her experiences to inspire future generations of women scientists, and in particular those working in higher levels of academia. She is currently involved in a number of initiatives in this area, including Springboard workshops, mentoring early career scientists and encouraging young women to take up a career in science.

“If my experiences can help future female scientists to succeed, my mantra would be to believe in yourself and to never give up.”

Asel’s work is certain to inspire the scientists of the future, and has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

If you would like to find out more about supporting this project, or any other area of research at Bath, please contact Senior Development Manager, Stephanie Lear at s.lear@bath.ac.uk.