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Science alumni return after 40 years

23 June 2016

The summer of 1976 is famous for being long and hot but for those of us who met up in May this year it meant the start of our three years at Oxford Polytechnic.  We were Environmental Biologists and Human Biologists, for ever EBs and HBs, doing a new fangled thing called a modular degree.  So we were all put together in the old lecture theatre (about to be demolished I understand) for modules called chemistry of cell constituents (8111), metabolic biochemistry (8112) and molecular biology (8113) and then on into the labs in the science block.
Happy hours were spent in the student union bar, architects’ discos were a favourite as well as Biology Soc socials.  Kiki Dee gave a concert in the main hall, Dave Edmonds came to the summer ball.


So forty years later, we meet up for a guided tour round the new buildings.  Difficult to get our bearings - the engineering block with its wavy roof has gone to make way for a swanky new entrance on London Road.   Gibbs, which was brand new when we started, now looks in need of a facelift.   We are enthusiastically guided round by Ali Ismail, a student ambassador, who tells us tales of the IT system alerting you when your washing’s finished in the launderette ( surely you just time that by a Fawlty Towers episode?)  The student union looks a whole department to our eyes.  We learn about the miraculous construction of the John Henry Brookes building.

We are lucky enough to be joined by two of our lecturers, Alwyn Griffiths and Dick Craven who show us round the science/Sinclair building which is covered in scaffolding.  The layout’s much the same and we can just about remember in which lab we did each module.  The wooden lab benches have been replaced by shiny white ones, but reassuringly the wooden stools are still there.  The talk turns to practicals – smoked drums, rat dissections and experiments involving eating beetroot.  Alwyn gives us the lecturer’s perspective telling us how scary is was being in charge when we students used the rocking microtome with its rather sharp blade to take sections of rat kidneys. 
Back in town at the Wig and Pen we are joined by more friends.  Some of us are retired, some on second careers and some are still working in fascinating jobs in the scientific world.   It’s a lovely mix of people and we enjoy hearing edited highlights of the last 40 years of each others’ lives.  As one of the EBs put it
“Three years together, long ago - lasts a lifetime.  And so looking forward to the next time!”

Environmental Biologists 'EBs'
Human Biologists 'HBs'
Pat Sharp
HB 1976-1979