Our very merry meeting across the new-found divisions at South Kensington

Following the considerable restructure within the Department of Surgery and Cancer and new-found Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, in a time where many aspects of PGR life have seemed up in the air, Simone and I (Kate) decided to unite everyone for a single evening.  The aim was to encourage new friendships, to promote collaborative opportunities and reinforce the sense of community across PGR students at South Kensington. For the first time, students, post-docs and supportive PI’s took to a cosy boutique hotel in Hammersmith to meet, eat and be merry!

The evening started with the classic Secret Santa, where our personal Santa Claus facilitated the exchange of gifts. This gave people the chance to find out more about colleagues they hadn’t potentially met before and represented the perfect opportunity to introduce the new PhD students to the Departments.

Following the many laughs at unconventional gifts, we moved to a close-by venue to begin our evening. The turnout was fantastic! A large number of students joined the event, not only new PhD students of the Divisions but also students based on other campuses who hadn’t yet felt integrated with the rest of the PGR community. One of the main aims for the event was to get students to meet each other. To overcome any nerves, we provided Christmas crackers along with food and encouraged students to pull them with people they hadn’t met before and break the ice using the jokes inside. 

Another aim of the event was to make sure students knew who they could go to with technical issues, as often people down the hall or across your desk may have solutions to your problems or have faced the same struggles. This large-scale event allowed students to get together and have these conversations. Additionally, colleagues from the National Phenome Centre, who are integrated with many students’ projects,  were invited to inform students of their capacity to support their work. I also finally got the opportunity to introduce myself to colleagues I have seen several times around the lab but felt it wasn’t the right time to spark up conversation, some of these colleagues working on similar instrumentation as myself, highlighting the importance of community building events such as this. With this in mind, we are incredibly grateful to the Imperial Graduate School and the Research community fund made available to us, without which this event would not have been possible.

The final stage of the night was to cut loose and really enjoy each other’s company. Dancing was heavily encouraged, with the manager of the venue giving us full reign of music control – balancing the evening between friendship, food and fun!

Feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive! New students have now formed relationships with many of the existing PGR students and they will develop these connections over the coming months to years of their PhD. The next step for all of us will be to support each other during these sometimes stressful and demanding years of our PhD. We are now surer than ever that despite working independently and across different campuses, we are a single community ready to support each other.