Trinity has established a new society to provide a collegiate environment where post-doctoral researchers can meet others from different disciplines, share ideas, and enhance their Cambridge experience.
Trinity College’s Post-Doctoral Society has attracted 80 members, including a new committee that takes office this month. Any post-doctoral researcher employed by the University of Cambridge, who is not a current associate or affiliate of another Cambridge college, is eligible to join, via nomination by a Trinity Fellow.
Most post-doctoral researchers at the University are not affiliated with a college, and thus their experience of Cambridge tends to revolve around their department, institute or laboratory.
Vice Master of Trinity, Professor Grae Worster, said that the Society would fill an important gap in Cambridge post-doctoral researchers’ lives. He said:
Without some of the social structures that surround student life or the colleagues that come with more permanent positions, and with activity concentrated in a laboratory or library, there is potential for isolation, both intellectual and social.
President of the Society, Dr Maciej Lisicki, agreed.
The Society’s aim is to provide space – both formal and informal – for interactions between post-docs working in different areas of research to exchange their views and ideas. This is the unique feature of colleges that cannot be provided by individual institutes or departments.
‘Previously, I would just go home for dinner,’ says Dr Samantha Hajna, a Research Associate at the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, who is Treasurer of the Society. Now Dr Hajna and all members of the Society can have meals at student rates in Trinity’s Hall or the College Bar, access the sports facilities, and use a dedicated lounge – the refurbished Deighton Room overlooking Trinity Street – which offers free coffee and tea.
Dr Lisicki, who is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, said the ‘cosy and comfortable’ Deighton Room was proving popular.
It is a space to learn, read, write, or just relax and unwind. Some people like to visit in the morning, to grab a quick coffee on their way to work. Others prefer to come in the afternoon. I have had some very interesting conversations with post-docs working in various departments just because we happened to have a cup of tea at the same time.
The Society hosts research talks and social events – including a monthly formal hall. ‘The dinners in Trinity’s magnificent Hall play a vital role in our Society,’ says Dr Lisicki. ‘They unify us and provide an occasion for us to meet many people in similar stages of their careers, but working in diverse areas of arts and sciences.’
The socialising has a serious side, enabling ideas to be shared, sparking new approaches, and quite possibly forging the cross-disciplinary collaborations needed to solve today’s complex problems. Society Secretary, Dr Karol Nowicki-Osuch, a Research Associate at the Medical Research Council Cancer Unit, said:
Post-doctoral researchers are a vital part of the University’s excellence. The Society provides an unparalleled opportunity for these researchers to fully realise their potential by providing facilities for professional and social networking. We believe that the Society will be the source of some of the future success stories of the University of Cambridge.
Trinity’s Post-Doctoral Society will include junior members of College, particularly PhD students, in its events programme, and is keen to welcome members with children to its family events.
Dr Hajna said the committee was confident that the Society would become a vibrant community.
It could be a model for other colleges on how they can harness the potential of the University’s post-doc community to enrich the academic and social milieu within their college, contribute to the personal and professional development of the next generation of researchers, and provide post-docs with a place that they can call home.