Michael Scott's week

For the first in an occasional series documenting a week in the life of a member of the University community, Dr Michael Scott - Affiliated Lecturer in Classics and Research Associate at Darwin College - was shadowed by our photo-diarist Sir Cam, providing an insight into the diversity of academic life at Cambridge.

I see outreach – communicating your ideas, research and passion for your subject – as a fundamental part of what academics should be doing.

Michael Scott

From committee meetings and green screens, via research for his next book, to Classics-loving teenagers and major public lectures, Dr Michael Scott had a busy - but relatively typical - week, although there was one exception: he was accompanied by legendary Cambridge photographer Sir Cam - the University’s photo-diarist.

Providing a visual record of the range of activities undertaken by Michael Scott in a single week, the photos reveal an academic world of outreach, research, academic debate and College life.

“I’m a Research Associate and affiliated lecturer - the place I have within the University is not a lectureship so it’s not full-time teaching - I’m at Post-Doc level: between a PhD and moving into a full time post,” explains Scott. “This provides me with precious time to get research done and get engaged with the wider world.”

“The commitment to these sorts of postdoc positions is one of the many things that are incredibly special about Cambridge - and not one that gets highlighted often enough. I do also undertake some university lecturing and supervising (small-group teaching) but this was not a teaching week for me – so the one thing missing from this photo diary, which people may expect to see, is teaching undergraduates.”

Scott is an academic who is also a committed believer in outreach, both digital and physical, and a keen user of channels such as Twitter, as well as the more traditional methods of public engagement: “I see outreach – communicating your ideas, research and passion for your subject to as wide an audience as possible – as a fundamental part of what academics should be doing - part of the normal job.”

Friday - 10 February

Darwin Lecture Series - Life in the Ancient World

“The first weekend began with a big public lecture for the Darwin Lecture series - one of the biggest lecture series at Cambridge. It was an honour to be asked to give one of these lectures. It’s also a fascinatingly difficult audience to pitch to: composed of everything from school children to accountants, professors of biology as well as experts in my own field, the challenge is to make sure there is something for everyone, and that no one gets lost along the way."

"With an audience of 500+, it was a nerve racking experience, particularly as you only walk into the room at the last minute accompanied by the Master of Darwin so you have little time to get used to the surroundings. But I enjoyed it immensely once the initial nerves died down and hope the audience did too. One of the really important things about this lecture series is that the lectures are also made available as a podcast and video download from the University and iTunesU. The lecture series has consistently been one of the University’s most popular downloads in recent years, which means that they are really reaching out to a wide audience in the UK and around the world.”

Monday – 13 February

College committee meeting - education & research

"I’m on the College committee that runs the lecture series, oversees the college weekly lunchtime seminar series in sciences and art and humanities, and liaises with the University Press about publications that come out of College. We meet once a term. I really enjoy being part of committees like this because it gives me a chance not only to help the college tick over, but to contribute to the wonderfully rich and encouraging atmosphere it provides for its students and researchers.”

Tuesday – 14 February

Lunchtime seminar at Darwin College

"The lunchtime seminars are a great chance to leave your own specialised field for an hour and delve into something completely different - a real perk of College life. You grab some lunch and listen to a talk by a member of the college who is an expert in their field. Anyone can give a talk from M.Phil student to the Master and this week it happened to be the Master - Prof William Brown - highlighting his recent research on arbitration in China.”

Tuesday – 14 February

Event planning in Fitzbillies cake shop

“An informal meeting in Fitzbillies, a Cambridge institution, with two colleagues – we were finalising plans for a book discussion event that happened the next day, at which I was acting as chair and principal discussant. We were hosting an invited speaker who’d written a book about the life and times of an archaeologist in Italy in the early 20th century. Over coffee and cake, we discussed the set-up for the event, how the evening was going to run, as well as the sorts of questions and themes we wanted to bring out in the discussion.”

Wednesday – 15 February

Research for forthcoming book

“Here I am having assumed my usual position in amongst the book-stacks at the library in the Classics Faculty, where I spend a good percentage of every day. My research focuses on the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, and particularly at the moment about religious sanctuaries in ancient Greece. I’m writing a book for Princeton University Press which looks at all the different activities going on at the sanctuary of Delphi in mainland Greece over its 1000+ year history, which follows on from my PhD work and also a documentary I wrote and presented about the sanctuary for BBC 4 in 2010. I love the atmosphere in this library and it’s made a great place to work by the friendly and helpful library staff and fellow researchers. Deadline for the book submission is 1st July though, so I better get my head down…”

Wednesday – 15 February

College lunch

“Darwin College is an all postgraduate College - there’s no hierarchy in the dining hall - no high table - everyone grabs lunch and sits down wherever. You end up having really interesting chats that allow you to experience work outside your own field, it’s one of the great things about the Cambridge Collegiate system - lunch followed by coffee talking with students, researchers and top-of-the-field experts in areas such as astrophysics, or sustainability in Africa and so on."

"Not only does it offer you a daily injection of a much wider perspective (absolutely essential!), it also gives you ideas about different approaches to try in your own research.”

Thursday – 16 February

Digging in to the Darwin archives

“I met with Darwin archivist Elisabeth Leedham-Green, who is helping me research the material for an exhibition which is part of a conference happening this week (May 29 -31) celebrating the life of Moses Finley - a former Darwin College Master, who donated his library to the college and in whose memory a research fellowship was established which I was lucky enough to hold 2007-11. It is the centenary of his birth in 2012 and I am co-organising the conference with Prof Robin Osborne at the Faculty of classics, to investigate Finley’s impact on scholarship."

"Finley was himself the Professor of Ancient History here in Cambridge, and not only had a huge impact on our understanding of the ancient world, but also had a very interesting life - he was a Jewish academic working in American academia, but chased out of the USA during the McCarthy era. Cambridge subsequently embraced Finley, and whilst in the UK he made the first documentary on the original Olympics for the BBC in the 70s (which is the video I’m watching on the screen). He wanted to be known as a ‘responsible publiciser’ of the ancient world, something I hugely admire. The exhibition will include not only the video but, amongst other things, some original correspondence between Finley and Albert Einstein!” More on the conference here

Thursday – 16 February


“I go to the gym couple of times a week at the University Centre. I spend a lot of my day sitting in the library or in meetings or lectures so its great to counter-act that with plenty of exercise. I love running and ran the route of the original Marathon in Greece in 2007. Next up is the Royal Parks half marathon in London this coming October.”

Friday – 17 February

Showing sixth-formers the joy of Classics at Cambridge

“This is an example of the kind of outreach I do a lot of - showing a group of classicists from a sixth form, so 16-17 years old, what Classics at Cambridge can offer. Sometimes I go to the school, and sometimes they come here to the Faculty. Here I give a tour of the Faculty’s cast gallery which is on the 2nd floor of the faculty and open to all members of the public. It’s a fantastic gallery of statues that take you right the way through the history of Greek and Roman art."

"These students were from Caterham school in Surrey and I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and discussion – hope they did too! In fact, some of the questions they asked got me thinking about the ancient Olympics, which turned out to be very useful as that night I was asked to give an interview to the BBC News Channel from the BBC Studios in Cambridge about the theft of objects from ancient Olympia which had happened earlier that day!

Friday – 17 February

Development committee at Darwin

“Another committee meeting, this time the Darwin College development committee - which looks at fundraising, alumni events and outreach for my College. Darwin has got its 50th anniversary coming up in 2014 - which everyone is very excited about, and for which we are planning a series of events as well as a commemorative book.”

Saturday/Sunday– 18/19 February

Filming with green screens

“The weekend was spent filming for a three part series for National Geographic that I’m currently working on. I spent both days in a giant green screen studio in Elstree to film segments which will be inserted via clever digital technologies, which I don’t fully understand, into re-enactments sequences! It was the first time I had filmed in a green screen studio and it was quite difficult to get used to – imagining where things and people would be and moving round them."

"I was amazed to find out that nearly every scene in the film 300 – the Spartans with their rippling pecs! – was shot in a green screen studio! My Nat Geo series will be completed in early June – sadly I am not allowed to say any more about what it’s about at the moment, but keep an eye out for the series later this year!”



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