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Focus on Postdoctoral College Affiliations: Clare Hall College

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Welcome to the first in a new series of PdOC blog posts focussing on the affiliations postdoc researchers have with Cambridge Colleges. The aim is to find out from postdocs with existing affiliations a little more about why they joined a College, what benefits they gain and the kind of educational, sporting and social activities that are on offer.

 

Following the news that Clare Hall College is offering up to 200 Affiliated Postdoctoral Memberships, we decided to start here by asking two existing Postdoctoral Affiliates of the College, Dr Franck Courbon and Dr Matthias Benoit, about their experience of being a member of Clare Hall.

 

For those interested in taking up an Affiliated Postdoctoral Membership at Clare Hall, the deadline for applications is Wednesday 14th December at 5pm. More information is available here.

 


The History:

  • Founded in 1966 by Clare College, Clare Hall was initially founded to essentially be a satellite campus of Clare College for University teaching officers whose principal focus was research; visiting academics who would stay in Cambridge for between six months and a year; and graduate students. In 1984, Clare Hall became a fully independent College with its own statutes and its own governing body.
  • Today, Clare Hall has around twenty Official Fellows, twenty Research Fellows, thirteen Professorial Fellows, forty Visiting Fellows, as well as one hundred and eighty graduate students. More information on the history of the College, from which this text has been adapted, is here.

The Buildings:

  • Located in West Cambridge, on the corner of Grange Road and Herschel Road, the main building was designed by Architect Ralph Erskine and opened in 1969. This building houses the dining hall, coffee lounge, reading room, meeting room and bar.
  • The West Court, obtained by Clare Hall College in 1996, was once the Cambridge residence of Lord Rothschild. The West Court now houses meeting rooms, studies, apartments, study bedrooms, a gym, an indoor swimming pool and a very attractive garden. More information on the facilities and buildings can be found here.

The Experience:

We asked two current Postdoctoral Affiliates of Clare Hall College about their thoughts on membership of the College:

 

Dr Franck Courbon (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Computer Laboratory)

 

My name is Franck Courbon and I work within the Computer Laboratory FranckSecurity team on the West Cambridge site. Roughly speaking, my contract aims to demonstrate that it is possible to extract integrated circuits memory contents using any means (electron microscopes, lasers and such).

I have been very lucky to be one of the 2016 Clare Hall Postdoctoral Affiliates. My year with Clare Hall has been fulfilled with conference/talks open to Clare Hall members, social events (punting, drinks/formal evenings) and sport activities (tennis, football, squash and rowing). You really can find something that suits you in the college, as usual, the hardest task is to choose and to find time.

Above all, I had the opportunity to exchange with very nice people from various fields and countries. It also helped me in my work, as I ended up doing some experiments with someone I met at Clare Hall. My personal view is that being affiliated to a college is a very good way to experience Cambridge at its best, and being part of a growing College such as Clare Hall very valuable.

So don’t hesitate to apply and take my place for 2017…

 

Dr Matthias Benoit (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Sainsbury Laboratory)

Matthias


I am working as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Sainsbury Laboratory, studying the impact of the non-coding fraction of the genome on the biology of crop plants. I've been an Affiliated Postdoctoral member of Clare Hall since January 2016.

Why did you initially choose Clare Hall?

I've heard that Clare Hall has the best food of all Cambridge! More seriously, I've been attracted by Clare Hall because of its very strong graduate and postdoc community, that gives a different atmosphere to the college.

What do you like most about being at Clare Hall?

Clare Hall is a very small and intimate college. You know almost everyone around and the contact between the members is facilitated by such a "relaxed" atmosphere. The community is extremely active in terms of culture and sports, as well as in terms of cooperation between the different members.

What events/activities do you attend at Clare Hall?

I am involved in the Clare Hall Squash Club and I am rowing for the Clare Hall Boat Club. The atmosphere in the teams is fantastic and it's a great opportunity as a postdoc to benefit from such nice facilities. I also regularly attend formal dinners (held every Wednesday), which are always great to meet new and old members of the college.

The interactions between graduates, PhD's and postdocs are strong, also because of the relatively high number of people. It is also great to share some nice moments with the academic staff. Also, our porters are great!

Would you consider that being at Clare Hall has helped in your professional development?

The spectrum of competences is so broad at Clare Hall that it does facilitate your professional development. Beside those people who are studying & working in the same field as you, the input and ideas from people outside your field is also great and very valuable.

 

More information on the research focus of Clare Hall College can be found here.


Main text: Paul Bennett, adapted from text on the Clare Hall College website

Photos and image credits: Clare Hall College, Wikipedia (Creative Commons licence), Franck Courbon and Matthias Benoit