Latest posts

The Only Woman in the Room

The Only Woman in the Room, is not only an experience I have frequently endured, but is also the title of a 2015 book by Eileen Pollack (subtitled Why Science is Still a Boy’s Club). I’m not sure why this particular book hadn’t crossed my path until recently, given it is about her experiences as an erstwhile female physicist during her education, but it hadn’t. She and I are near contemporaries bu Continue reading

Posted in coeducation, Eileen Pollack, physics, Women in science, Yale | Leave a comment

Opening peer review for inspection and improvement

ASAPbio Peer Review Meeting

For me the most memorable event at last week’s ASAPbio-HHMI-Wellcome meeting on Peer Review, which took place at HHMI’s beautifully appointed headquarters on the outskirts of Washington DC, was losing a $100 bet to Mike Eisen. Who would have guessed he’d know more than I did about the intergalactic space lord and UK parliamentary candidate, Lord Buckethead? Not me, it turned out.

Mike was graciou Continue reading

Posted in Academic publishing, asapbio, hhmi, peer review, science, Wellcome Trust | Leave a comment

What do We Lose if We Lose Access to the ERC?

This week I was in Brussels in my capacity as a Scientific Council Member of the European Research Council. One of the roles we are all expected to fulfil from time to time is as observer of the various panels that make decisions on grants. There are 25 panels across three domains (Physical and Engineering Sciences, Life Sciences and Social Sciences and Humanities, always referred to as PE, LS and Continue reading

Posted in Brexit, Brussels, Research Councils, Science Funding, Unconscious bias | Leave a comment

One Hundred Years

Today we celebrate the Suffragettes’ victory 100 years ago: votes for (some) women. A timely moment to reflect on the state of play in terms of equality. More than seven years ago I wrote the post below about the Equal Pay Act and how the gender pay gap operates in universities. Rereading it last week – in the wake of an article by Gaby Hinsliff – it still rings as true  to me today as then. Continue reading

Posted in Dagenham, equal pay, Equality, Mary Beard, Suffragettes | Leave a comment

One Year In

It’s hard to believe that it is now more-or-less a year since our kick-off workshop to launch our curriculum revision project. Right on schedule, we celebrated the occasion with our planned second all-lecturer workshop, this time with the goal of converging the curriculum outline.

In order to have a concrete starting point for discussions, the project team prepared a draft curriculum proposa Continue reading

Posted in education, Materials Science | Leave a comment

When Should You Say Yes?

I am prompted to ask this question by a whole slew of different events and stories this past week. The question is in part a general one about what is good for careers, and in part it reflects gender issues – as they impact on both men and women. Let me start with the general careers’ question: how do you decide when something you have been asked to do is a wise thing to accept? There are a wide r Continue reading

Posted in committee work, Impostor syndrome, manel, Science Culture, Women in science | Leave a comment

Now I understand Proust better (but feel less positive about Athena Swan)

You know the story about Marcel Proust and the madeleine – how the memories came flooding back when he nibbled at one with a cup of tea. I always thought this was slightly ridiculous, but perhaps ageing means I now have more memories to recapture.  Suddenly it all made much more sense. And certainly, walking down the back streets of London from Kings Cross to UCL last week, I felt assailed by memo Continue reading

Posted in Athena Swan, Dillon's, UCL, Women in science | Comments Off on Now I understand Proust better (but feel less positive about Athena Swan)

Changing the Patriarchy (Perhaps)

I’m afraid this is going to be a derivative blog. Derivative because I’m prompted to write it due to two recent articles I’ve read, but I’d like to turn their ideas into the world of academia. The first was in Saturday’s Guardian by Hadley Freeman in which she said many things that will strike a chord with at least some readers. For instance:

‘I’d been waiting: waiting for someone to give me permi Continue reading

Posted in Equality, Hadley Freeman, Kate Manne, misogyny, sexism | Comments Off on Changing the Patriarchy (Perhaps)

This is NOT the America I know

This is NOT the America I know

I am an American by birth, although until the age of 34, I never lived in the United States except as a baby. Thus, I am here by choice. And I am saddened by what Donald Trump has done to this country—because this is NOT the America I know.

I did not choose Donald Trump. Continue reading

Posted in freedom, Haiti, immigrant, immigrants, Mexico, science, shithole, Trump, United States | Comments Off on This is NOT the America I know

Run with Science, Dr. Julia Biggins!


Dr. Julia Biggins, Democratic candidate for Representative of Virginia’s 10th District

One of the few positive outcomes of the Trump presidency, is that some people have become so fed up with the quality of those in elected office, that they are willing to leave careers that they love behind in order to challenge and replace some of the appalling current politicians in Congress. Indeed, I h Continue reading

Posted in 2018 midterm elections, anti-science, CDC, Dr. Julia Biggins, EPA, evidence based, no puppet, Pruitt, Research, science, science-based, scientists, stable genius, truth, Virginia 10th District, war-on-science, war-on-truth | Comments Off on Run with Science, Dr. Julia Biggins!

‘I do like kissing games’

After Harvey Weinstein there have been suggestions that we’ve reached a ‘tipping point’, that the genie can’t be put back into the bottle and that our society will clean itself up with respect to sexual harassment. I wish. In the meantime, the low level denigration of women continues, from wolf whistles in the street to offensive casual remarks, as illustrated by the Virgin tweet enquiring if some Continue reading

Posted in Equality, harassment, Harvey Weinstein, misogyny, name-calling, Women in science | Comments Off on ‘I do like kissing games’

In which we look back at top 2017(ish) lab lit fiction

As the old year dribbles to a close under heavy grey skies and relentless rain here in southeast England, just a quick note to point you towards a recent interview of me on US National Public Radio, chatting to host Heather Goldstone about a few science-in-fiction novels that kept me busy over the past year. They’re all either out in 2017, or the paperback versions were.

Listen here!

Continue reading
Posted in Lablit | Comments Off on In which we look back at top 2017(ish) lab lit fiction

How the Financial Sector Hinders Manufacturing

As 2018 approaches, the UK’s economic future seems as uncertain as ever. I think we can conclude with conviction that our country is anything but ‘strong and stable’ and the mantra that Brexit means Brexit has been shown up for what it is: a cover up for complete uncertainty over any future plans whatsoever. However, tempting though it is to make this end of year post a tirade about our political Continue reading

Posted in fund managers, ICI, Science Culture, Tom Brown | Comments Off on How the Financial Sector Hinders Manufacturing

The Alumni Sounding Board

As a no-longer-very-junior Professor, who is (I think) not entirely unreasonable in meetings, I spend a large and increasing fraction of my time serving on scientific advisory and steering boards. If you will permit me one small grumble, I’m convinced that I do this far more than my male colleagues now that many institutions aim for a bit of gender balance on such committees (which is of cou Continue reading

Posted in education, Materials Science | Comments Off on The Alumni Sounding Board

Is the THE aiming for clickbait?

Just before Christmas on Twitter I came across a survey being run by the THE asking

THE is running a survey about whether women should champion other women in academic careers. What do you think?

I duly went to this and answered the questions, but I did this with rising frustration. And clearly I was not alone. Continue reading

Posted in academic sisterhood, early career researchers, Equality, mentors, Women in science | Comments Off on Is the THE aiming for clickbait?