Not enough posts from me in the last month or so. Well, none at all. But I do have the best excuse of all. Try writing a 360 page thesis, and a 600 page atlas in a month, and then see how motivated you can be to write more than an email. Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know I survived the experience, and the thesis was gleefully, if exhaustedly, submitted on the 6th June.
Since then it has been all change at Pen and Ink towers. After a week long conference, supposedly exploring the origins of life, but mostly exploring the local wine lists courtesy of the Lyon Institute of Origins, I packed up and drove away from Oxford for the last time, ending an eight-year era that has been the majority of my adult life. A tear was shed, but stepping out into the unknown can be exhilarating with a look to the future instead of the past.
The last week has been a complete change to the pure academic life I’ve been leading of late, as I organised and led the Diamond Jubilee tour of The Ancient Men Morris Dancers on their 107th tour in 60 years. This past week we have danced from Llandeilo to Llanelli, Camarthen to Cardiff, in some of the most inclement weather the UK has seen for years. An unremittingly wet, but unremittingly fun week was spent with some of the finest people I know, and while the bruises and blisters may take some time to heal, the memories will stick around for a good while yet. Here’s a photo of us after our last dance on the beach at Port Talbot.
So, onwards and upwards to this future, and I am now counting down the days before I leave for my summer of adventure. On Saturday, I fly out to San Francisco, to join the exalted ranks of NASA scientists as we strive for a truer understanding of our place in the universe. Or, more simply, I’m going to poke some algae for a couple of months. The plan is to try and approach some of the enigmas of early Earth microbial systems from a biological point of view, with a view to understanding what they may be doing, or may have done, if life arose elsewhere. I expect the work to involve collecting, culturing, and sequencing algal mats, as well as investigating nutrient flows and responses to extreme external stimuli. I have high hopes and am super excited for a new direction and a new location.
Also super exciting is the prospect of living and working in San Francisco. Renowned for its microbrewery and chilled out folk culture, somehow I feel I’m going to get on pretty well there. I’ll be living just off Alamo Square, and while its about an hour commute, I think its going to be well worth it, for living in the middle of everything. Recommendations for places to hang out, or things not to be missed are greatly welcomed!
As seems to be the thing these days, I’m going to try and keep some semblance of a travel blog/diary right here for those of you who will be missing me desperately, or want to find out how I’m treating San Francisco. So watch this space for considerably more updates on life as a Brit in the States, life as a Morris dancer in San Francisco, or life as a palaeontologist at NASA.