It’s almost the end of the summery holidays and even as I type this researchers everywhere are frantically trying to complete they real work before their supervisors return and instantly break everything shortly after saying “Oh, that looks interesting”.

The summer holiday period is always tricky for researchers because it gives an uninterrupted magical time to catch up on experiments and papers they’ve neglected with limited “hey can you look at this”. But summer is also holiday time, and in the UK, the only few weeks of weather that is a level up from drizzle. So researchers are always left with a conundrum, get work done in peace and quiet or go on holiday and relax.

Luckily for any researchers trying to work out how to spend their last week of holiday, I have a third way. Holiday at camp Research Holiday Camp!!

Camp Research Holiday Camp is a wonderful new camp which combines research and relaxing with the joy of saying the word camp a lot. To come to Research Holiday Camp you just need to follow the guide below and start enjoying!

Packing for camp

Just like any other holiday, you need to pack carefully for research holiday camp. Most researchers have their workspaces in buildings so you won’t need to pack a tent but a sleeping bag is a must as the desks rarely come with bedding. I have heard stories of research offices with beds but even without a black light I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t want to let any part of my body touch them.

You also won’t need a passport but be sure to pack your work ID as without it you might end up in your research office equivalent of Guantamino bay where you’ll be forced to listen to the stories of security guards for a large part of your holiday.

When it comes to money and currency it’s rare to find anywhere in a research office that will accept travels cheques but you will need lots of change for reasons I’ll explain later.

Clothing is difficult as each research space has it’s own microclimate of air-condition. Best advice is to pack light and bring just one change of clothes and a really ugly jumper to help you blend in with the locals. Laundry facilities are basic but there is unlimited distilled water available which is very effective for washing clothes.

Arriving and meeting your fellow holiday campers

Now research holiday camp is a bit like fight club. You do not talk about research holiday camp with your fellow campers. This rule is very strict and you’ll find that if you do try and talk about the holiday camp they’ll act very confused and in some cases even threaten to call security.

The best thing todo is just introduce yourself as though you’re doing a normal work day. Some research offices will have first day of camp parties to try and get everyone talking. As per the not talking about camp these are heavily disguised and may appear like coffee breaks.

Camp meals

Research holiday camp meals are one of the best parts of holiday camp because you get to take a break from cooking and cleaning and get to experience the finest cuisine your research lab has to offer.

Some research labs have a plethora of local delicacies. One I worked in had sacks of potatoes just lying around under this sign saying “test fungal coating” which would have been perfect. Other less equipped labs will still have lots of food as research lab camping has a potluck sharing catering system. The other campers will have brought food and these will be carefully stored in their desks and cupboards. So as to avoid having to talk about research holiday camp they’ll expect you to help yourself when their not around. Sometimes they’ll even lock their cupboards to keep the ruse but trust me, they won’t mind if you force the lock.

If your fellow campers can’t supply you for food then all research labs have a nice selection of vending machines. Hopefully you packed enough change to keep yourself well fed on crips and chocolate bars.

First night

Your first night is always magical at research camp, the excitement of a sleep over right next to your experiments. Earlier in the day you want to scope out a nice under desk location to spend your night and possibly see if you can find some extra soft bedding like discarded journal papers and lab coats.

Bed time at camp is quite late and signalled by the last person leaving the office. Going to bed before this tends to make people uncomfortable. Especially if you start taking off all your clothes. But once they have left you can get yourself all set up and if you’ve managed to forage some marshmallows, chocolate and biscuits you can grill yourself some smores over the oldest computer in the office.

When you’re finally ready to turn in get into your sleeping bag and lie back and look up at the warming glow of the fluorescent lights that will probably be on all night.

Fun activities

During the day at research holiday camp you need to make sure you make full use of the facilities and daily activities. Personally, I always like to start a day at camp with a quick go on the random excitement generator. The random excitement generator will look a LOT like your experiment/research but you’re on holiday so it’s actually a fun activity because anything you do on holiday is fun by definition… even that time I spent 3 hours in a traffic jam to look at the Blackpool illumination, any sense of despair I felt was just imaginary.

So once you’ve had a go on the random excitement generator and enjoyed experiencing the dizzying rush of another failed experiment you can get on with the other camp activities such as painting with strange colour things in the chemical cupboard, pin the power cable on the laser and learning how to build a shelter out of pipette tips. My personal favourite is doing a treasure hunt, simply select some equipment and try and find its original manuals. They are always in the last place you think of (frequently about 5 years deep in the local landfill).

Last day of holiday

Leaving research holiday camp is always hard. Often camp is over when you wake up to the words “Hey what are you doing here”. This rapid and abrupt end to research holiday camp saves any long goodbyes with your new camp buddies and sometimes you’ll even get a ride home in a nice black and white camp transport car.

Hopefully after your time at research holiday camp you’ll feel relaxed and refreshed. And if you don’t then it’s okay because very often after research holiday camp you are given several weeks extra holiday and a meeting with your supervisor.

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Categories: ErrantWritings


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