This week I had the privilege of giving a seminar at the University of Edinburgh. Had to spend a week beforehand just getting my talk ready: after all I hadn’t really given an hour-long seminar on Synthetic Biology before and it was an excellent opportunity to clarify my own thoughts on the background and current issues, as well as present the work of several of my local collaborators. I hope the audience enjoyed listening to the talk as much as I enjoyed giving it. Thanks to Ian and James for inviting and organizing.
I just loved the building. In a way it has the same configuration as hours: a central, open atrium with several floors of offices and hubs between offices to provide space for discussion and collaboration. But the execution of the space is fantastic, as is the provision of really comfortable, welcoming nooks and crannies all over, even small kitchen areas with coffee and hot water available. There is a lot of glass, which makes the space open and seemingly accessible. And filled with furniture and furnishings with a very Scottish flair.
And yet colleagues there mentioned the same issues that we speak about here, about architects not always being aware of the small things that characterize academic spaces: such as the need for spaces for small meetings which provide excellent sound insulation, and of course provision of whiteboards or, for the more hard-core academic, chalkboards! And the facts that academic departments tend not to be very hierarchical, but on the other hand they can be very flexible: groups grow and shrink, new topics and organization of these topics into themes changes, and both deep study as well as creativity need to be encouraged.
I came back from Edinburgh with many thoughts about research as well as about academic bilding s buzzing in my head. Nourishment for the mind, to accompany the great food always part of any trip north of the Border.