Sunday, November 4, 2007

Our First Black Tie Dinner in Cambridge

The invitation came pretty late -- like, Monday for the Saturday event. The Magazine was one of the sponsors, and the usual representative for such things couldn't go. JT forwarded me the invite -- Cambridge University Scientific Society, annual dinner, Nobel prize winner as after-dinner speaker, blah blah blah. Sure, sounds fun, I said. I guessed it would be an excuse to dress up, get a good meal, and chat with the old-guard scientists of Cambridge.

Minor detail: the society is a student society. Everyone was 20 years old. Or maybe 19. The only old-guard scientist was the speaker, who, it turns out, JT and I had just seen at the meeting in Lisbon. (For those keeping score, it's Nobel prize winners interviewed/met - JT: 30, he reckons; KT: 4. )

It turned out to be a lovely evening. Boy, these kids are driven. Like, crazy driven. Third-year science students (so, juniors in the U.S.) are choosing their specialty for their fourth year research projects. (Research projects?!) Medical school starts at 18 and goes for 8 years. I talked to three students (undergraduates) who will be presenting posters at an upcoming meeting.

We were seated across from the man who founded the society 12 years ago as a student, and his wife, who's a teacher at a local private school. I was sitting next to a very nice young man who's a fourth-year medical student from Malaysia. JT sat next to a charming American woman doing her PhD in cell division. Also close to us was a woman from Denmark who's reading (that's what they say here instead of "majoring in" or "studying") physics and math. (They also say "maths" instead of "math", but that makes the editor in me twitch, so I shall refrain from using it here.)

Dinner was a four-course affair, delicious and ended with the traditional glasses of port (and way too many profiteroles!). Here's what the hall looked like:

We were in one of the new colleges, called, um, New Hall, founded in 1954 as a women's college. It's still a women-only college -- one of three, among the 31 total colleges at Cambridge.
And you often see Cambridge students in at least a coat and tie, or a nice dress -- standard dress code for dining in the formal dining hall, which students do about once a week -- so it wasn't much of a stretch for them to be in tuxedos and cocktail dresses. It was, however, a rare event for us, and we were lookin' mighty fine, if I do say so myself :

JT comment: Well, my wife looked stunning in her new dress, but due to the late invitation, the rental tux I got was a bit ill-fitting--overly long sleeves on the jacket, for example. Living here and in DC, I should just buy one!

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