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An image that reads: Protect yourself, protect others. Your actions, your university.

It was the week in which Lateral Flow Testing came to South College. For days, I have thought of little else. For this historian, implementing the results of scientific research is a complete novelty. I have long been aware of - and often in awe of - the impact science has on our civilisation.

Scientific method gave us the steam power that propelled the industrial revolution. It has identified the threat posed by global climate change and, it can, if we listen, give us the tools with which to counter its worst effects. In this case, the listening is clearly at least as important as the science.

All of this said, I'm accustomed to reading about science not doing it. Until this week, I hadn't handled a test tube since I studied Scottish O Grade Chemistry at Peebles High School between 1977 and 1979. I remain very grateful to Dr Campbell Boag for his kind and patient teaching. He was entirely right to recommend that I should not push my luck by attempting Higher Chemistry.

So, imagine my alarm on Wednesday when I found myself holding a small plastic test tube, a swab and a bottle of solution. I was delighted and relieved when the LFT the test kit worked and offered me a negative result. Nevertheless, I was still daunted by the prospect of safely testing the entire College.

I could not be more grateful to all who have helped to run the testing in South and to every one of you who has agreed to be tested. The operation has run astonishingly well. My sincere thanks to Steven, Lee, Richard and Alister Robson from CIS who volunteered to help us. Thanks also to the superb student trainers who have volunteered learn the process and to work as trainers alongside us. You have done tremendous work and I am immensely grateful.

LFT testing has been a complete surprise, and for an entirely unexpected reason: it has turned into a social event. I know our expectations have been lowered by months of social distancing and lockdown. I understand that none of us would choose to gather as households in a rigorously sanitised JCR and stick cotton wool swabs up our noses. Still, conversations have taken place and I have heard laughter. I think it says a lot about the spirit of South college that we can enjoy each other's company even in such bizarre circumstances.

The biggest positive to take from this is that our optimism may be justified. If regular testing can be implemented and made to work, it paves the way to more active social, sporting and cultural lives in the very near future. Perhaps our good humour reflects awareness that while this may only be the beginning of a very slow end, it is a good beginning.

This evening we will meet for a first socially distanced formal. My thanks to Richard for arranging it. Now I must make sure that the Oswald-cam is working and that our mascot will be on Zoom in time to acknowledge our college toast. He has been missing your excellent company.