Latest posts

Important Takeaways from “The Discovery of Insulin” for Today’s Scientists


Back in 2013 I visited the University of Toronto for a seminar and was given a very special gift by my gracious hosts: a copy of “The Discovery of Insulin” by Michael Bliss, which tells the fascinating story of the people and research that led to the finding that pancreatic extracts contain biologically active material that reduces blood sugar levels, and paved the way for the identification of i Continue reading

Posted in Banting, basic science, Best, book review, Collip, discovery, insulin, Macleod, Michael Bliss, pancreas, Research, reviews, science, takeaway, Toronto | Leave a comment

Seeing Red

Is anger a good spur to getting on and getting by? The recommendation to use it as a positive force came from three eminent colleagues this past week. I had the enormous pleasure of facilitating (I think that’s the right word) a conversation with a trio of presidents of professional bodies who Katie Perry, Director of the Daphne Jackson Trust, had succeeded in lining up: Julia Goodfellow, Presiden Continue reading

Posted in Carol Robinson, Daphne Jackson Trust, Julia Goodfellow, Julia Higgins, Women in science | Leave a comment

In which darkness comes knocking

It’s quite telling that the back end of this blog site is full of recent drafts, abandoned a few lines in. I have ideas, and most evenings, the time, to dash something off. But something, recently, is sapping my creative energy.

A combination of factors is probably responsible. Continue reading

Posted in academia, staring into the abyss, The profession of science, Writing | Leave a comment

How Many ‘Firsts’ does it take to Change a System?

As the new academic year starts in Cambridge the University Library is  marking 150 years of women studying here, even if admission to degrees came much later in 1948. Collectively we can also note that for the first time essentially half the colleges have female Heads of House (as the collective noun for Masters, Principals, Provosts etc has it): there are 15 of us now, out of 31 Colleges, but St Continue reading

Posted in Equality, gender pay gap, Lucy Marshall, Sally Davies, Sonita Alleyne, University Library, Women in science | Leave a comment

Regency Restoration Part 2 – Who doesn’t love a good old Regency tiled floor?

Really, who doesn’t love a good old tiled floor. So classy.

We have tiled floors in our flat, of course we do. Our Regency flat (yes, I am persisiting in calling it that) only became a flat in the early 1900s about the time that Downton Abby was filmed (see what I did there). So it is a bit hard to tell if these floors are Victorian, Edwardian or Georgian-slash-Regency. Continue reading

Posted in diy, diyqueen, Georgian tiles floors, regency restoration | Leave a comment

Regency restoration – Part 1, use the right product.

I, along with my husband, am the proud new owner of a Regency flat. The pedants among you will quickly point out that there is no such thing as a Regency flat. This is true, but I think I should be given a pass because it is so much easier to say than “a flat in an old Regency-era Terraced building”.

Regency architecture is impressive. Our flat has giant ceilings. Continue reading

Posted in diy, diyqueen, leaving academia, PeelAway., regency restoration | Leave a comment

Another Year, Another Speech

Writing and delivering uplifting speeches comes with the territory of being the head of an Oxbridge College. Although my interview for the position at Churchill did not require a dry run of this, to check that I was capable of exhorting the troops appropriately, perhaps it should have done. Over the five years I have been in post now, I have become more relaxed about the delivery, making it possib Continue reading

Posted in Baroness Brenda Hale, Christopher Frayling, CP Snow, education, Freshers, stereotyping | Leave a comment

What Do We Know about the Research Ecosystem?

While funders make decisions about where their money goes, and PhD students decide what to study, with whom and where before they go on to wander along the career maze; while publishers decide who to publish and universities around the world make decisions based, at least in part, on these same editorial decisions, who looks at the Big Picture? There is a need for more understanding of the decisio Continue reading

Posted in careers, Equality, James Wilsdon, Research, RoRI, Science Culture | Leave a comment

Project-based learning and craft-brewed beer

One of the most enjoyable of my curriculum-revision tasks over the last weeks has been my participation in the “P2 team”, that is the Project team for Project-based learning (we could probably have done better with one very long german word for our name, but P2 seems to have stuck). On some days it is not entirely clear to me how (or indeed whether) I am contributing; one of our respon Continue reading

Posted in education, Materials Science | Comments Off on Project-based learning and craft-brewed beer

Talking Leadership in Toronto

I’ve recently been in North America meeting up with Churchill College alumni, flying into New York City and out from Toronto, with a delightful flight with gorgeous views over New England in between. It was rather exhausting but was also something of a trip down memory lane, initially triggered by a nasty incident. A few days before travelling I had had my wallet stolen in Cambridge, pickpocketed, Continue reading

Posted in alumni, Bruce Simpson, Equality, Maggie Thatcher | Comments Off on Talking Leadership in Toronto

Red Lines Don’t Need to be Political

Despite the introductory couple of paragraphs, this is not meant as a political diatribe….it’s just hard to avoid parliamentary affairs currently. I did foreswear following Brexit news for several months after the last deadline in the spring for the sake of my well-being, but somehow I’ve got sucked in again….

We’ve heard a lot about red lines from UK politicians over the past many months. It turn Continue reading

Posted in Brexit, negotiation, resources, Science Culture, space | Comments Off on Red Lines Don’t Need to be Political

Lost and Wanted—A review of a new LabLit novel

Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 9.51.38 PM

Having recently finished the novel Lost and Wanted by Nell Freudenberger, I peeked at a smattering of the many reviews written about this novel, each claiming Lost and Wantedfor its own select cause: feminism/gender equality, race issues, friendship issues, parent-child issues (multi-generational), science and society, science and belief/religion, elitism in education, social fads, and on and on. Continue reading

Posted in education, Research, reviews, science | Comments Off on Lost and Wanted—A review of a new LabLit novel

Trying Not to Discourage Others

What should one say to school children about to make university choices regarding life after school? Of course there are lots of positive things – clichés abound to supply them – but there are also the darker elements of the conveyor belt they are on. Talking to a group of around 50 teenage girls considering applying to Cambridge for maths or natural sciences last week, I found myself wondering wh Continue reading

Posted in Cambridge admissions, education, Maths, sixth form choices, Women in science | Comments Off on Trying Not to Discourage Others

I told myself…

I am on holiday – on the island of Mauritius, a tiny tropical island in the Indian Ocean. And when I go on holiday, I make ridiculous plans. 

Mauritius beach

I told myself I’d start running again. I’d get up early every morning, slip out of bed without disturbing my wife and cross the road to the beach. Continue reading

Posted in Blogging, Scientific Life | Comments Off on I told myself…

In which I realize I am part of a select sci/art group

Me talking about the antimicrobial resistance crisis back in 2015

I haven’t written here for a gazillion years – life is just too full-on. But I found out an amusing fact that I wanted to share. I’m not sure how it came up, but my Fiction Lab contact at the Royal Institution recently told me he’d done a little digging and found out that only three published fiction authors Continue reading

Posted in Lablit, Nostalgia | Comments Off on In which I realize I am part of a select sci/art group