Monday, December 14, 2015

IRRI ends the year in style!

This year-end celebration was special because it marked the last day of Dr Bob Zeigler as the director general of IRRI. He had passed on the baton to Dr Matthew Morell earlier in the day and so this was the institute's way of saying farewell to the man who led IRRI for the past ten years.

Walking over to the venue got me thinking about the many changes that my group, the Grain Quality and Nutrition Centre, has gone through throughout the years. We used to be called the Grain Quality and Nutrition Research Centre when I first came on-board (as a researcher). Melissa was the head of the centre then. Vito and I didn't have graduate degrees then. The GQNRC was housed in the NC Brady Lab building back then... and our office space (if it can be called that) was so cramped that we didn't even have any leg room. Soon after, Vito and I went to graduate school, finished off with PhD degrees, and are now qualified to compete with international candidates for job openings. The GQNRC then is now GQNC. The research focus of the team has a stronger genomics flavour to it because the lab is now headed by Nese. And the centre is now spread out on two floors of the Hemmi building: research staff are mainly on the first floor while the GQNSL (the service lab) is in what was formerly the Analytical Services Laboratory. 

Of course, the faces have changed. Definitely. With the multiple changing of the guards came the ebb and flow of students and staff who, after they left, have pursued new heights. I watch, honoured, that the lab I'm working in has contributed to their career growth... and to the improvement of science, in one way or another.

But despite the many changes, the group has remained solid; our team spirit is alive and kicking. Need proof? Try this: we (except the boss) all came in costume as cats... and won second place for best costume (group category)!! This reminds me of when we joined all contests leading up to the IRRI-wide Christmas party many years ago... we lost but we didn't lose hope... and then won the dance contest!!

Enough with the reminiscing and back to the more recent past... aka December 11th.

It's not just us that came dressed... the girls at the Postharvest Unit, who used to be with us when the lab was still called Grain Quality, Nutrition, and Postharvest Centre, also came in costume! However, they came in 1920s Prohibition-era attire (aka as the Great Gatsby era flapper girls). 

The 1920s appeared to be a popular choice among those who attended the party because there were a lot of flappers... and a lot of dapper men. Think male actor in Chicago or in any musical based on the same period. They're in shirts, pants, and suspenders... plus their signature hats worn askew. Perfect example: The guys who played one of Bob's favourite songs, "Moondance" by Van Morrison. With the exception of Ruud (who came in more modern attire), the band (Tony, Matty, and Chris) embodied the jazz lounge act to a T.

The party was truly a fitting farewell party for Bob, who's retired this year. And as everyone tipped their hats off to Bob for a job well done, I couldn't help but thinking I didn't have a hat. I had a headband shaped like cat's ears. Oh well, a hat wouldn't fit my costume anyway... unless I came as Dr. Seuss' Cat with the Hat. 

The biggest surprise for everyone was the appearance of Dr Achim Dobermann, who is a former deputy director general for research at IRRI. Back in the day, he's described as one of the rock stars of IRRI (and not just because he sang Country Road during IRRI Duets) and IRRI's Steve Jobs. Apparently, he flew to the Philippines to see Bob's send off. Not even sure if he's still around and talking with IRRI staff or if he's flown off again.

But before calling it the end of the party, Achim just had to give me a piece of valuable advice, something that I have always looked forward to from this high-level scientist who once took on a fledgling post-doc fellow to watch over way back then (because Melissa had left and Nese hadn't arrived yet). This time, though, my comedic timing was spot on and even Bob found my faux pas funny. Haha!