There are many pitfalls that must be navigated as you work towards earning a PhD: one of the biggest is isolation. By its very nature, a PhD requires you to be researching something new and unique and when you’re at your desk trying to work out why the data looks weird, because it always looks weird, it can be easy to forget you’re not alone. That’s why events like the PhD Summer Party are so important. Thanks to the generosity of the Graduate School and the Bioengineering Department, every year, we’re afforded the opportunity to relax, make new friends outside of the lab, and live the student dream of free food and drink. This year was no different.
After a solid week of rain, the heavens cleared on the last Thursday as if to bless the oncoming merriment of the evening. We’re fortunate in Bioengineering to have very talented staff who have joined together to form the Gastric Band and, with the help of some volunteers, they relocated and set up in on the 8th floor of the Blackett Building complete with terrace. After some, shall we say, efficient preparations, the room was ready for the party to begin promptly at 5:30pm. By 5:45, the food was gone; at least that’s how I remember it. It wasn’t long before the room was full of clusters of people chatting, their plates laden with delicious BBQ all being washed down with a selection of delicious drinks. The warm weather meant we could venture out on to the terrace and look over the city as the sun slowly set over the capital. With everyone fed and watered, the band took centre stage and the party began in earnest.
The band astounded with renditions with their covers of rock classics, like “Johnny Be Good”, to pop hits, like Cee-lo Green’s “Forget You”, and everything in between. Though reluctant at first, 6:30pm is a bit early to boogie, it wasn’t long before the dancefloor was established and all manner of shapes were being thrown. Each member of the band shone with spectacular solos but the mellifluous voices of Kemi Aofolaju and Melanie Albright really got people cheering. Even Professor Bull got on the stage and had us bopping along to “Hit the Road Jack”. If you ever get a chance, see the Gastric Band: I guarantee you will not regret it.
9pm came, and with it the end of our booking. The band packed up, the reps and volunteers cleaned up, and my colleagues grabbed their “one for the road” and made their way to the Union Bar to continue the festivities. It would be easy to see the Summer party as just a time to blow off some steam and a waste of money for various departments but I believe it plays a vital role in making the PhD experience just that bit easier and more enjoyable. Whether it’s new friendships that you help you expand your research and build your career or just a friendly face to say hi to by the coffee machine. Every year the party gives us the opportunity to hop over the pitfall of isolation all to the tune of Toto’s “Hold the Line”. If you ask me, that’s worth every penny.