A Trip to Buckingham Palace (Yes, Really!)

Just before Christmas we had an all Unit photograph at work – we all gathered together, fighting over places because no one wanted to be in the front row. Looking around I felt really lucky, I am so, so, lucky to be doing my PhD in an environment filled with such brilliant colleagues. After the photograph had been taken, I went to walk out of the building and back to the open plan office I work in, that was until Prof Craig Ramsay, HSRU Director pulled me aside and said he had something to talk to me about. Genuinely, my first thought was ‘Oh God, can you get fired from a PhD?’, shortly followed by, ‘Did I ever put anything awful on Twitter?’.

Thankfully, neither of those thoughts lasted long – Craig was explaining to me and my friend and fellow PhD student, Beatriz, that HSRU and HERU (the Health Economics Research Unit) – both based at the University of Aberdeen – had won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize, and the two of us had been selected to represent the HSRU’s postgraduate students.

Fast forward about 6 weeks, and this arrived:

Apparently the whole going to Buckingham Palace thing wasn’t a joke.

Anyway, that led to a few weeks of pondering what to wear, where to get my nails done, and whether my hair needed a new style, and last week the time came for us to head to London. Beatriz and I flew down on Wednesday morning – she had a hair appointment and I had a nail appointment (#priorities).

Thursday morning was quite possibly the most surreal morning of my life. Representatives from HSRU and HERU teams (photograph below) gathered with a sort of nervous energy in the air. We got in a taxi and asked the driver to take us to Buckingham Palace, we even had a car pass that meant he would drop us off right outside the gates.

L-R: Me, Prof Craig Ramsay, Prof Marion Campbell, Ruben Sakowsky, Prof Mandy Ryan, Alastair Irvine, Maria Dimitrova, Beatriz Goulao

Once we were inside the Palace (it’s still weird even typing that), we handed our coats/bags (and phones! – unfortunately no selfies with the Royals this time) in, and were then guided through to The Ballroom, which was where the awards ceremony would take place.

Image taken from the @QAPrizes Twitter account.

We were given name tags (I’ve kept mine because I’m doubtful I’ll ever see my name alongside the Royal cypher ever again), and then shown to our seats, which were ready with booklets detailing the proceedings (left).

We were told by one of the guards what would happen next; when to stand, when to clap, and when to be seated. At this point everyone seemed a bit on edge, but in a really excited way – we were not sure what to expect, but we knew that we were about to experience something really special.

Prof Craig Ramsay and Prof Sir Ian Diamond, Principal of the University of Aberdeen, were up first (image below). The Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education was presented to them by the Prince of Wales on behalf of the Queen, and the Duchess of Cornwall presented the Prize Certificates.

Prof Craig Ramsay receiving HSRU and HERU’s award.

After the ceremony all of the teams were taken through to another room where there were stands set up for each University, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall then came round to meet with each of the teams. Both HSRU and HERU teams were given the opportunity to discuss the research that we do in our Units with the Prince and Duchess – they were hugely engaged and interested in the work that we do. The Duchess even said that it must be really exciting to work around clinical trials; a refreshing change from the eye rolls I get when I’ve been talking about trials to my friends for too long..

Again, it was one of the most surreal mornings of my life; I flew back to Aberdeen later that evening, and was in my own bed by 11pm wondering if it had all been a very elaborate dream! I felt incredibly privileged to be representing HSRU, and it’s a day I won’t be forgetting for a very long time to come.

Now, I’d better get back to my thesis…

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