Summer Message - 1 July 2021
This year we have all witnessed tragedies near to home and far away, and we’ve seen triumphs of science, service and spirit. I want to thank everyone for their contributions to Imperial’s resilience and excellence throughout this unique and tumultuous year. We have a lot of successes to celebrate as the UK, and the world, begins to emerge from the pandemic crisis. I am sure that we all share dreams of time to relax and refresh ourselves and I hope that you all find the best ways to do so over the summer.
The inspiring stories of creativity, innovation, discovery and hard work dealing with COVID are uplifting. I point many alumni and friends to our stories of the people behind the REACT study, our virologists’ rapid work to understand new variants, and the incredible self-amplifying RNA technology our vaccinologists are pioneering in the fight against new variants and – as we look to the scientific legacy of coronavirus – other diseases. This is not to mention the way colleagues transformed what an Imperial education can be in the face of the greatest challenge for generations.
Throughout the pandemic we have kept up the hard work and successes across our many exciting frontiers, from the groundbreaking for the School of Public Health at White City to launching a new Global Development Hub to support our engagement with the UN Sustainable Agenda 2030. Our role in finding innovative solutions to shared global challenges has never been more important and, with the support of programmes like The Forum, colleagues from across the College are at the heart of policy making on the transition to zero pollution, improving health resilience and responding to new challenges posed by emerging technologies.
The awarding of the Wolf Prize for Mathematics to Sir Simon Donaldson for his contribution to differential geometry and topology was a highlight this term. While it was not the usual gala event, friends, family, and colleagues paid tribute to Sir Simon in a lovely ceremony brilliantly staged by our events and catering teams. We celebrated our community’s external accolades, including national honours for Professors Paul Elliott, Alison Holmes, and Azra Ghani, and applauded the dedication of many staff and students in the President’s and Provost’s Awards and virtual Garden Party.
One of the best measures of our success in our mission is through the achievements of our alumni. Our advancement team has run many inspiring virtual events reaching hundreds of alumni and friends around the world. Gatherings such as the Alumni Spotlight series, Alumni Entrepreneur Award winner event, and Great Minds conversation with Sir Sam Jonah, remind us of the wealth of talent in our alumni and give us a chance to share this wealth with our community, our supporters and our strongest advocates.
The discussions I’ve been having with Current and Future Women Luminaries have inspired new networks of friends with their stories of discoveries and pathways to success. We also connect with younger audiences so they can think about careers they may not have considered before.
I’ve appreciated feedback from my annual address. In it I called for a concerted effort to diversify our community and announced investments in scholarships for underrepresented students and international students. I’m pleased with the momentum we are gaining as friends and alumni wish to help us provide this important support. I also note how determined colleagues are to build upon the great work done during the pandemic. We’ve collaborated tremendously across the College, developed new hybrid teaching approaches and new ways of engaging colleagues and students through technology. As we recapture our time in person, we will need to use spaces in new ways, and I encourage everyone to think of ways that our spaces can be changed to allow these innovations to thrive and to submit ideas to the Community Fund.
As we look ahead to the Autumn, while we may be unsure of the state of COVID-19, we know that we will continue to provide world leading research, the very best teaching and student experience and the most innovative new ways of working. Our engagement with government and partners here and abroad will focus on bringing our excellence to the benefit of society, contributing to the post-pandemic recovery, the COP26 goals, resilience to future health challenges and responsible growth of research and innovation investment.
I wish you all a restful and relaxing break this summer with time for friends and family.
Professor Alice P. Gast
President, Imperial College London