Thirty Years On

Every now and then I use this blog to mark a personal anniversary, but I’m a bit late with this one. It was on October 1st 1990 that I started work at what was then Queen Mary & Westfield College of the University of London on Mile End Road. Here’s my staff ID card which, for some reason, I have kept for over thirty years.

I was to work there until the end of 1998, after which I moved to Nottingham.

My position came about because I had applied unsuccessfully for a permanent lectureship at QMW, but this was a kind of consolation prize. I had strong personal reasons for wanting to move to London at that time and was very happy with the outcome. I only had two years’ postdoc experience at the time and wasn’t sufficiently experienced for a permanent job so wasn’t surprised that I didn’t get it. In fact it went to Mike Thompson, who sadly passed away a couple of years ago.

The job I moved for was a five year fixed-term position that was a mixture of a postdoctoral research fellowship and a temporary lectureship in the ratio 30:70 so I had a teaching load that was lighter than that of a lecturer but heavier than that of a postdoc. As the card indicates I was in the School of Mathematical Sciences and because my research interests including a statistical component, I mainly taught statistics. In fact, the first course I lectured was on Time Series Analysis, which was to a mixed class of mathematics and statistics students. A couple of years into this position I applied for and was awarded an Advanced Fellowship from the (then) Science & Engineering Research Council, which meant that QMW got me for nothing for 5 years and my reward for that was a permanent position at the end of the fellowship.

For some reason – probably because the terms of employment were a little complicated – I kept the correspondence about the job. In particular I note that my starting salary was a princely £14,148 per annum (including £1,767 london weighting). That’s about what a PhD student’s stipend is these days!

I look back on my time at Queen Mary with great fondness. I learnt a huge amount not only from my boss, Ian Roxburgh, who had managed to set up the job in the first place and was very clever at things like that thanks to his somewhat Machiavellian nature.

When I visited QMW to talk informally to Ian about the job, he asked me why I wanted to move to London. “Do you have a girlfriend here?” he inquired. I said “no”. “A boyfriend, then?” he responded. I wasn’t sure whether he meant it as a joke, and thought it was a bit inappropriate, but didn’t hesitate in saying “yes” in response. I wondered whether this would cause any issues but it didn’t. Being openly gay didn’t cause me any problems there at all, in fact.

P. S. Here is the staff list on the letterhead of my appointment letter. An illustrious collection, though the gender balance could have been better. All by now have either retired or moved to other institutions, though I have stayed in touch with several of them through the RAS Club.

2 Responses to “Thirty Years On”

  1. Phillip Helbig Says:

    ” As the card indicates I was in the School of Mathematical Sciences and because my research interests including a statistical component, I mainly taught statistics.”

    Comparing the two photos reminds me of the old adage “Old statisticians never die—they just get broken down by age and sex.”

    I’ll get me coat.

  2. I’ve kept all my appointment letters since first postdoc although not staff cards. (I have a picture of our astronomy group from 1983 in my office and that is bad enough). My recollection was that my first postdoc salary in 1982 was around £5800 (the letter is in the office and I am working from home).

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