University of Oxford


Survey Results

RPW Survey Introduction

Steering Committee


Meeting 1 part 1

Meeting 1 part 2

Introduction to the Survey

Christ Church Chemists: how those words roll off the tongue! We can usefully shorten our three words to (Ch)3 to save us some space in what follows here. The present explanation is intended to serve as an introduction to the survey for (Ch)3 that follows, and explain what the objectives are. (Ch)3 have a reputation well beyond the walls of The House, and even outside the boundaries of the University of Oxford. Of course, for centuries (Ch)3 have been making important contributions to scientific research and understanding, and that continues to this day, with some members of the research community being of the highest distinction. But (Ch)3 are also renowned for the special nature of the team of more junior members. There is a special cohesion amongst our undergraduates and graduates, with the glue not being entirely alcohol-based, but where social activities do offer a common theme. The (Ch)3 behave in some ways like a close-knit family, where there is a team spirit of playfulness, of helpfulness in times of adversity; and admiration and true mutual celebration in times of success. It is worth pointing out that this kind of internal relationship is rare within the University, and perhaps unique to Christ Church and Chemistry. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Martin Grossel, who from the first days of his association with Christ Church fostered this team interaction amongst the chemists with his own warm hospitality in Blue Boar, and his initiatives such as the Chemists’ annual dinners in the McKenna Room and Christmas Parties, both functions often accompanied by games or small cabarets and other theatrical performances that offered opportunities for bonding.

We are addressing here the alumni of Christ Church Chemistry. I envisage this group as consisting of our former undergraduates, postgraduates, Lecturers and Tutors. Maybe someone like Roger Mallion will be able to refine the definition, perhaps insisting that the alumni are only entitled to be called that if they matriculated from Christ Church in the first place.

In recent periods, (Ch)3 have been fortunate to be able to participate in a number of high-profile social events that have fostered the cohesion that I have mentioned. There have been dinners and lunches to celebrate significant birthdays (Paul Kent’s 90th, Richard Wayne’s 60th) and to “mark” (I had better not write “celebrate” here) retirements of some long-serving colleagues (for example, Richard Wayne and Martin Grossel). For some of these occasions, we have even run “practice sessions” in the year preceding the real event itself. Then, by good luck, some of the most high-visibility (if not notorious) of our alumni have recently participated in a sequence of “Year Gaudies” (those to which the college invites eligible members), and we have again had the pleasure of their company. The message is that there have been a succession of events for Chemistry that have provided opportunities for us to assemble together again, share memories, and have a good time.

The local organisers of the events were approached time and again by participants who wanted to say how much they had enjoyed themselves. Quite a proportion said that they found these “Chemistry Gaudies” more enjoyable than the more usual “Year Gaudies”, perhaps because the guests found themselves amongst the same people with whom they had shared their undergraduate days and activities most closely. Some guests were even kind enough to say that they relished the opportunity of talking with their former Tutors and Lecturers; certainly from the point of view of the Tutors and Lecturers, it is wonderful to hear at first hand of the achievements, successes and adventures of their former charges. Many, many of those present at our functions asked, “when will the next event be?” and “what will it be for?”. The second question is perhaps the more difficult to answer, since we cannot invent birthdays, retirements, major academic distinctions, and so on, and the answers to “what for?” certainly help to answer “when?”. However, reflecting on these matters, we began to ask ourselves if we cannot just have dinners and other social events for their own sake, and not have to find an excuse. On the other hand, someone would obviously need to find suitable dates, good for our guests, and that would fit into the college’s tight schedule, and we (you) would have to find willing organisers who know both the Christ Church ropes and the wishes and foibles of the target audience.

As we were thinking about how to make forward progress, it came to our notice that our sister college in Cambridge had created a number of “Alumni Affinity Groups”, including associations such as Trinity in the City Association; Trinity Law Association, Trinity in the Arts and Media Association, Trinity Medics Association, Trinity Engineers Association, Trinity College Choir Association, Trinity Faiths Association (TFA), and so on. Have a look at this web page

to see what these affinity groups have recently done or are planning for the near future. These events look closely similar in motivation and flavour to what we have heard would be welcome at Christ Church. So the first purpose of our survey is to gauge the level of support and enthusiasm that (Ch)3 would muster for a (Ch)3 Alumni Affinity Group that could be a general umbrella for many Chemistry social activities. We are also asking questions about such matters as how often our events might be mounted, and when. The occasional question is open-ended and we hope you will use your imagination and creativity to dream up what events would be most welcome and appreciated, and what contribution, if any, you might be able to make personally towards the organisation of an Affinity Group. First and foremost, should we try to create an Affinity Group?

Please try to answer the questions in as timely and complete way as possible. The survey was designed by Fiona Holdsworth (1981 — our very first female chemist), who has professional expertise in such things and has freely given of her time to help us, and the computer implementation and access to servers were provided by Pete Biggs (1978). We owe it to their hard work and thought to provide the answers they need before we take any further decisions. It would be brilliant to see an outcome in which we could all meet up on a fairly regular basis, and under such pleasant conditions as we have enjoyed this summer.

RPW on behalf of the Organisers
September 2013