Orientation

Day 15: Inductions at the Cavendish

I went in to the Cavendish early. The previous week, I submitted a form (one of many) regarding teaching preferences for the year. At the Cavendish, it is compulsory to make oneself available for two units of teaching during the degree. It isn’t compulsory to actually teach, but it is to offer to teach. Having enjoyed teaching back at Adelaide, I saw this as an excellent opportunity. This semester, I will be teaching the practicals in Part IB Physics at the Cavendish. One of the confusing things about Cambridge, is that Part IB is the student’s second year, which is divided into two courses, Physics A and Physics B, to form part of the Natural Sciences Tripos. The first year is called Part IA, the third is called part II, and the fourth year Masters of Science is called part III. Why? I have no idea.

Because I would be teaching in the labs, we needed an introduction to the labs. The physics teaching laboratories are on the ground floor of the Bragg building at the Cavendish in West Cambridge. Initially, I knew roughly where the labs were, so I wandered past the lecture theatres. From here, one must pass through a door underneath a sign reading “toilets” and along a series of long corridors with a deeply industrial feel. I found the labs, for those familiar with Adelaide, they have a similar feel to the Darling West first-floor labs, only a dozen times larger.

We were introduced to the set-up of the labs: how the classes work, what the students are expected to learn, how assessment works, what to do if something goes wrong, and so on. The session was short, and we signed on to pick our laboratory class, and returned to our offices. Mine was empty, so I took the opportunity to Skype home and see how everything was getting on.

For the rest of the afternoon, I set about the laborious task of setting up various computer-related accounts. I use Mozilla Thunderbird as my email client, and endeavoured to get a calendar to be accessible and updateable from my laptop, phone and new desktop computer. After, I went through my long list of email correspondents to notify anybody who was previously unaware of my new email address (bg364@cam.ac.uk, or see my research group profile). I also needed to update my many online accounts that had been using my old Adelaide-issued email address to the new Cambridge-issued email address. This included sites that I use very occasionally but would still like to access and sites I use every day like PayPal, Amazon, Dropbox, Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple and so on. The bugbear was Microsoft which spat the error “You can’t add a work or school/university email address as an alias to a personal Microsoft account. Please try another.” when I already had used a university email address. Another irritating website was MyGov, which requires a contactable mobile phone a security feature, which is understandable yet inconvenient.

At 4 pm, I along with all of the other commencing postgraduates at the Cavendish went to the Pippard Lecture Theatre for a welcome lecture and reception. The line for the registry was long, but the lecture itself was a good grounding for where I as a graduate student fit into the wider department and university. We were told our obligations and responsibilities, and offered some advice to make the most of our graduate degrees.

Immediately after the lecture, we congregated in the foyer for food. There was a long table, filled with lots of different bite-sized foods: micro sausage rolls, aranchini balls, mini-quiches, cheese-and-breadsticks, cheesy bread rolls; I think somebody liked cheese. I filled up my plate; I hadn’t had lunch; and hung around for a little while.

I returned to my office for the final few accounts to be transferred, and headed home. I had less than an hour there before I headed out again, this time to the Cambridge Corn Exchange as part of a Gates Cambridge social event. We would be seeing Pride and Prejudice, a play based on the novel by Jane Austen. I was thoroughly entertained by it. For more, see my review. After the play, I returned home late, and fell asleep by midnight.

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