Show time: Madrid week eight

On Friday last week I boarded a late morning flight from Madrid to London. Three hours later I was speeding south on the familiar train from Waterloo, looking forward to my long weekend in Portsmouth.

The main purpose of my trip was to see the annual University of Portsmouth Dramatic and Musical Society (DMS) show. The university orchestra usually plays in the pit for these shows and if I hadn’t been on long-term attachment, I would have been in the pit with them. As it was, I had to make do with a seat in the stalls for the matinee and the dress circle for the Saturday evening show, the final of the run. Having travelled so far to see my friends play, I wasn’t going to be satisfied with only seeing it once!

The show was the Offenbach operetta Orpheus in the Underworld, a comic take on the familiar myth in which Orpheus and Eurydice aren’t in love at all, but he’s forced by the character of Public Opinion to go down into hell to rescue her, or else lose his reputation as a violin teacher. The show closes with the famous Infernal Galop, otherwise known as the Can Can.

Like every DMS production, the cast were excellent. I was particularly impressed by Peter Ashdown in the role of Jupiter and Xena Mendez as Diana. The costumes were another highlight, all designed and made by Rhys Jones, an astrophysics undergraduate who also played the role of Styx. However, the best part for me was the orchestra, who produced a really well balanced sound. Special mention must be made of my old desk partner and leader of the orchestra Tarek Zaidieh, who nailed some challenging solos as Jake Warner (playing Orpheus) pretended to play them on stage.

I returned to Madrid on Monday, and on Tuesday afternoon Skyped in to the semi-regular ICG Impact Tea run by Gill Prosser, the ICG’s Impact Fellow. Her role is to try and link the science we do in the ICG with non-academic applications. I gave a presentation to the group on the role of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, a bicameral body in the UK parliament that takes cutting edge scientific research and turns it into an easily digestible format for MPs and other interested parties, thus allowing research to directly inform policy and legislation.

Last year, I applied for a three month fellowship at POST and although I was unsuccessful, I found the application and interview process very interesting and valuable, and so I also discussed this in my presentation to the group. I also wrote about the interview in this blog post from October and think the fellowships are an opportunity that many PhD students could benefit from.

This week I’m back to working on my standard sirens mock code, although I’m still trying to understand all the components that go into the error calculation. I also presented my new paper at the IFT journal club this morning and had some nice discussions about our method and results (thanks also to Sunny Vagnozzi for giving the paper a really nice write-up on his blog!). Since I presented a paper last week too (this great work by my ICG colleagues Minas Karamanis and Florian Beutler on a new sampling algorithm and code they’ve developed) I think I can take a couple of weeks off from presenting there now!

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