Class of 1972 Physics reunion

Posted on Monday 29th July 2013

Allen Kaye, BSc Physics 1972

"A number of the Physics graduates from 1972 have remained in contact through the years and we decided to arrange a special 2 day meeting in May 2013 to celebrate the passing of 42 years since we collected in the Aston Webb Building and received our degrees. Although many within the final eleven who came had kept in contact, our intention was always to try and remake friendships with those we had lost touch with.

 As we sat and planned the event, it was important to us that it was focussed within Physics and the University rather than some anonymous or distant venue. This we achieved with the support of the Alumni Office and some of the academic staff and it made a tremendous difference to us.

We met for tea and cake in the Physics Library, the Alumni Office had provided a series of photographs including the formal Poynting Physical Society photo of 1970, one that proved of much interest – it is on the wall outside the Small Lecture Theatre. To our great pleasure we were joined by a number of academic staff including some who taught and supported us during our time at Birmingham – they were Professors Colin Gough and Ted Forgan and Dr Chris Muirhead. We also were very pleased to meet Professor Peter Watkins and Dr. Mark Colclough and had a pleasant hour both reminiscing and learning what changes had occurred over the years. It was brilliant to hear that the student numbers have blossomed in recent years and this we heard was despite of, or maybe because of the increase in expected grades for entrants. The students we saw seemed terribly young but enthusiastic for their subject.

Following the initial meeting we were then taken on a tour of the Physics buildings including the undergraduate laboratories – we discussed the importance of good slide rule skills and the excitement of seeing the first electronic calculator if that helps the reader to understand the time we came from. Of particular interest for a number of the group was a visit to low temperature labs and Ted reminded us of the properties of liquid nitrogen and superconductors with a number of unforgettable demonstrations – thankfully none including tomatoes. This reminded us of the wonderful capacity of the academic staff at Birmingham for student engagement. Ted, Colin and Chris had been the understanding supervisors of some of the party and although the technology had moved on, the labs themselves seemed quite familiar.

There were a couple of key criteria that determined the dates we met, one was the availability of the academic staff and the other was the calendar of colloquia. One concerning the Large Hadron Collider caught our interest because of recent developments in that area and we attended this in the Small Lecture Theatre after the tour. After expressing some surprise at the now cushioned seats we were treated to quite a technical lecture which to be honest fell on sets of ears that had a range of capability of following the detail. For myself I confess to coping only some of the time, but was impressed by the follow up discussion with real academic challenge from the audience.

A break followed and we regrouped at the house of one of our number Mike Pountney and his wife Jackie who still live close by and plied us with tasty pre-dinner nibbles and drinks.

Ted, Colin, Chris and Mark joined us for an informal meal in the Conservatory of Horton Grange. After further drinks in the bar and much conversation, a late night was followed in the morning by a group tour of the wider University, again arranged by the Alumni Office and conducted by one of the students. Individuals and sub groups, either on this day or before, had elected to visit particular places of interest including the Barber Institute, Student Union and the Winterbourne Gardens. Finally a number of us met to say our cheerios in the new Costa and left for our respective homes.

We would like to thank again the academic staff for their time and we would also like to thank in particular Kathryn Chedgzoy and Grace Surman from the Alumni Office. Both proved amazingly supportive, calm and creative especially when faced with occasional planning complications."

If, like Allen, you would like organise a reunion on campus, please email eps-community@contacts.bham.ac.uk and we will be happy to assist.