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Digital culture: my so-called week

My week, my cultural week, started last Sunday when I found time to complete my listening of Radio 4’s five-part series on Dorothy Hodgkin, an extraordinary scientist who was brought vividly to life through readings of her letters. Hearing the words created an immediacy that I am not sure I would have grasped from the printed page. If you have not Continue reading

Posted in History of Science, Science & Art, TV review | Leave a comment

Lifeskills I Wish I Possessed

I have been, briefly, in Brussels observing some ERC panels far from my area of expertise. It’s a very interesting experience, approaching topics one knows nothing about (including not having read the proposals) but watching how proceedings unfold. As a Scientific Council member my role is to see that all is going smoothly, that there are no Continue reading

Posted in bicycles, ERC, Science Culture, sleep | Leave a comment

On Columbus’ Origins

Having celebrated this week what is known here in the US as Columbus Day, a federal holiday, I thought it might be interesting to share (rather than review) a novel that I just finished reading — timely enough — about the life of Christopher/Christofer/Christoferro/Christobal Columbus/Colombo/Colon/Colona. The multitude of names signifi Continue reading

Posted in 1492, America, author, Christopher, Codex 632, Colon, Columbus, Columbus Day, Conversos, dos Santos, Genoa, Jewish, Kabbala, navigation, novel, Portugese, Portugese Jew, science, Spain | Leave a comment

On a hill

Jenny and I took some friends around the Rotherhithe peninsula yesterday, cutting through Russia Dock Woodlands and finally climbing Stave Hill.

From the top of Stave Hill you can appreciate just how flat London geography really is. The Hill’s not very high—30 feet, according to Wikipedia (and the base is barely above sea level)—but you can e Continue reading

Posted in London, Photography, Walkie Talkie | Leave a comment

Spreading the Word, Drop by Drop

There are times when I feel as if I’m talked out about gender. I know what the issues are, I’ve written and spoken about them often enough; I’ve dug up and read through some of the relevant papers (though that hardly makes me an expert in the field) and I’ve put the arguments across in many different fora both publicly and p Continue reading

Posted in Equality, Ottoline Leyser, promotion, Science Culture, speaking out, Unconscious bias, Women in science | Leave a comment

In which my palm is crossed with silver: Suffrage Science 2014

Inheritance doesn’t have to be genetic.

This past Thursday at London’s Dana Centre, I was one of this year’s recipients for Suffrage Science. For those of you unfamiliar with the scheme, it was launched in 2011 by the Medical Research Council Clinical Sciences Centre, and involves heirloom jewelry, originally designed by art stude Continue reading

Posted in Women in science, Writing | Leave a comment

From a New Viewpoint

I have moved a mere mile or two from my previous home to my new abode at Churchill College, and yet it feels as if everything has shifted: my centre of gravity is this crucial mile further west and everything I do is altered. Walking into the centre of town is now a very different experience, the route changed and consequently the perspectives subt Continue reading

Posted in Cambridge, Churchill College, College Life, Science Culture, students | Leave a comment

Debating the role of metrics in research assessment

I spent all of today attending the “In metrics we trust?” workshop organised jointly by HEFCE and the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at Sussex University. It was an open session that was part of the information-gathering process of HEFCE’s independent review of the role of metrics in research assessment, which has a particular focus on how the Continue reading

Posted in HEFCE, metrics, REF, Research Assessment, science, Scientific Life | Leave a comment

The implications of religion among scientists

I recently attended a meeting in London – ‘Exploring the implications of religion among scientists in the UK and India’, which is a subset of a larger investigation by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public policy headed up by Prof. Elaine Ecklund. When I received the invitation back in May, I didn’t really quit Continue reading

Posted in Atheism, implications of religion among scientists, religion, stereotypes in science | Leave a comment

Icons, cell biology and comfort zones

I recently returned from a week in Paris in which I attended a great meeting hosted by the French Society for Cell Biology (SBCF) called “Building the Cell,” at the Pasteur Institute and from another seminar invitation at the Curie Institute.
The Parisian icon made from immunostained HeLa cells plated on fibronectin served as the logo Continue reading

Posted in cell biology, Curie Institute, Eiffel Tower, France, Paris, Pasteur Institute, Research, science, scientific meeting, seminar, travel | Leave a comment

Getting the Most out of Panel Discussions

When I set out as a young researcher, conferences had a pretty monolithic structure. There were longer talks and there were shorter talks, but that was it. I don’t even think the first conferences I attended had poster sessions. Talks were usually delivered either with an overhead projector(usually with prepared overheads, but occasionally wr Continue reading

Posted in audience participation, chairing, conferences, Science Culture, time-keeping | Leave a comment

Is the Royal Society Treating Women Fairly?

This year’s announcement regarding successful applicants for Royal Society University Research Fellowships (URFs) has been hailed with deep suspicion by many. Out of 43 awards only 2 went to women and there is no getting around the fact that this is a dismal result. Paul Nurse, the President has published a statement spelling out, not only hi Continue reading

Posted in Equality, interviews, Science Funding, Unconscious bias, University Research Fellows, Women in science | Leave a comment

What’s Wrong with Conferences?

September is customarily a busy month for conferences, often with too many interesting ones that clash. What makes for a good meeting? Exciting talks, which you haven’t heard before (so not just lazy wheeling out of the usual suspects by the organisers); lively discussion; comfortable beds, quiet corridors and good food; poster sessions with Continue reading

Posted in clocks, Communicating Science, keynote speakers, poster sessions, Science Culture | Leave a comment

Unacceptable (science) education

For some time now I have been a proponent of including researchers – for example, those with a Ph.D. – in teaching science to high school students. While I have no doubt that the inclusion of a motivated and talented body of researchers in secondary school education will be highly beneficial to all involved: high students students, the Continue reading

Posted in advanced microscopy, advanced placement, biology, creative teaching, education, Golgi, high school, microbody, organelles, Ph.D. degree, Research, science, secondary school, super-resolution microscopy, Teaching, the cell | Comments Off


I was taught as a child that if you are walking on a road that has no pavement then you should walk on the side of the road so as to face the oncoming traffic. If the cars are driving on the left, as in the UK, then you must walk on the right.  This was drummed into me as a safety thing. I think the rationale is that you will be able to see (and ta Continue reading

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