The highlight of every Institute Retreat is the team building challenge. And my lab is pretty good at it; we’ve won it several times.

See for example the marble run we built in 2014.

We are so good at it, actually, that for the last two years the official announcement of the team building challenge included the statement: “The goal of this exercise is to make sure the Markowetz lab doesn’t win again.”

Last year, we had succumbed to the mounting pressure: When asked to build a life-like animal from paper and cardboard we produced what even optimistically can only be called a ‘roadkill turtle‘. No wonder we came last in the competition. No photographic evidence survives (we made sure of that).

This year was comeback time!

14 teams competed with each other and the challenge was to build something (anything!) that celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Institute, which is coming up soon in February 2017.

Well, it’s a birthday … so we built a birthday cake.

Not very innovative, you say? That’s true and at least four other groups also did cakes.

But in cake building, as in real life and science, BIGGER is always better and our cake was by far the biggest. It also came in rainbow colors.

Because of diversity, you know …

Standing (left to right): Andy, Ruben, Edith, Amanda, Anze. Kneeling: Florian, Federico, Hyunjin. Collapsed: Leon.

So big was the cake that a whole person fit in.

In the next picture, Turid is finding her space in the cake, while I pose with Sir Bruce Ponder’s head. Bruce was the founding director of CI and a celebration of CI’s last 10 years is a celebration of him and his achievements.

Why the head? Scroll down to the video!

No, it’s not his real head. Come on …

And here is how the whole thing came together: Leon and I are singing Happy Birthday (badly in my case) until we lift off half the cake and Prof Sir Bruce Ponder (or at least a lifelike look-alike) appears and starts dancing:

“Very droll,” Bruce said when I showed him the video.

Quite so … but in the end maybe not droll enough. We only made third place.

The admin team had produced a huge pair of boobs to celebrate breast cancer research. There was no way to top that.

And the Tavare lab had produced some kind of video installation. Hmm …. Must have been very impressive indeed to be ranked higher than our cake performance. Or maybe the judges didn’t want us too close to the top spot …. hmmm ….

Whatever … we were happy being in the top 3. Watch out CI, we are back in the game!



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