Moles and Research Students

It’s really busy here!! Research Colloquium is taking place, and the next week sees the beginning of our February Intensives for the masters level students. It may be a bit overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time and it takes you five minutes during our usual 10.30 Coffee time to swim through the Guest Lounge towards Yulia and Zhenya to get your drink. But it is wonderful to sense all these energies directed to various research fields, to see all the faces of the friends and to hear the updates of what is happening in various parts of the world from which our students and supervisors come. And just to enjoy the fun of spending time together, in and out of the Colloquium!

To those of you who are not on campus at the moment, perhaps the following entry might give a feel of the fun.  These are the musings of David McMillan, one of our Research students, currently with us on campus. Enjoy!

Each morning on the way to breakfast I stop and do a quick count of the number of mole hills in the garden at the rear of F Building.  I’m intrigued by them because where I come from we aren’t troubled by moles.  They must be distant cousins of the snake and decided to make a run for it when St Patrick drove the snakes out of my native island, Ireland.

Apparently moles can virtually ‘swim’ through soil by virtue of their special paddle like JCB shaped paws and finely shaped cylindrical bodies.  They burrow around in the dark finding worms and storing them up in underground larders or gobbling them on the spot.  I’ve never actually seen one of the creatures but I’m impressed that given their small size they can make such a big impact on the lawns.

All of which leads me to reflect on the similarities between moles and IBTS research students.  Just like moles you don’t catch sight IBTS research students very often but you can tell from the discarded mounds of books in the library that they’re around – somewhere.  Just like moles they spend a great deal of time in the dark trying to catch the odd worm of knowledge or insight, storing up their meagre worm collection in larders of lever arch files and computer hard drives.

What I really wonder is, do moles have annual colloquia?  Is there a large underground communal chamber at the back of IBTS in which they meet in their semi-blindness and discuss the quality of the worms they’ve harvested over the past year?  Is there a chief mole down there somewhere keeping order and constantly wanting to know ‘where is the critical analysis’?  And, more importantly, is there one called Jim? 

– David

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