Latest posts

Light Touch Metrics?

In the summer metrics looked like they had been substantially laid to rest for the Higher Education sector: The Metric Tide report, written at the behest of the (probably the about-to-be-late-lamented) HEFCE took many pages to point out that metrics alone would never be a good way of assessing excellence in our universities. Whether you care to use Continue reading

Posted in James Wilsdon, REF, Sajiv Javid, Science Culture, TEF | Leave a comment

Chairing: Not as Easy as it Looks

If you are setting out on your career, how do you acquire leadership skills? If you think you’re a born leader how can you check it out or improve? As part of the commemorations around the 50th anniversary death of Sir Winston Churchill (Churchill2015) various organisations have been considering different aspects of leadership. The Moller Centre at Continue reading

Posted in chairing, committees, leadership, Science Culture | Leave a comment

What Does Equality Mean?

­­As the additions to my last post indicate, the University of York has backtracked on celebrating International Men’s Day – a celebration that would have taken place today. So now one part of the university is annoyed that anyone ever considered celebrating the day and, by virtue of what was written in the original statement, apparently trivialisi Continue reading

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In which we are funded: urinary infection in people with multiple sclerosis


The big announcement!

I wanted to thank the good folks at the Multiple Sclerosis Society for awarding me an Innovation Grant. With Government funding for research dwindling, life scientists rely increasingly on charities to help us answer the important questions that lead to cures.

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Posted in Research, Science Funding, The profession of science | Leave a comment

In which I embrace the literature

Work from home

Work from home

I think I’ve earned a five-minute break.

I’ve been working hard to ready myself ahead of a big interview for a significant funding scheme. I’m being subjected to a series of mock interviews, and I’ve been reading as much as possible in my field for the past few months, mostly on evenings and weekends and on th Continue reading

Posted in careers, Science Funding, Scientific thinking, staring into the abyss, The profession of science | Leave a comment

On fungus

As a cell biologist, yeasts spelt doom for crucial experiments. And as a gardener/amateur brewer, mildew and mould and other nasties can really ruin my roses/vines/beer.

But there’s something about fungus, especially that not of the common or garden toadstool or mushroom variety, that, as a keen photographer of the world around me, is fascin Continue reading

Posted in fungi, Photography, Shorne, woods | Leave a comment

Supporting Men, Supporting Women: We Need to do Both

I am not infrequently challenged about why I worry so much about women in academia when young men are being disadvantaged. This is seen to be particularly true in school exam results but also if one looks at the numbers of men entering certain university courses (Veterinary Sciences, Psychology, English…). Woman’s Hour ran a story on this very issu Continue reading

Posted in appointment, bias, Ceci and WIlliams, Equality, International Men's Day | Leave a comment

Some words when one is speechless

The current use of “no words” in its semaphoric online sense seems to date back to five or ten years ago. To you, there may seem to be a great difference between five and ten years ago. To me, two days ago brought me fourteen years into the past, and all of us towards another future. From this perspective, there are no words to describe Continue reading

Posted in Guest posts, idealism, intellectual, ivory tower, obscurantism, Paris, Politics, terrorism | Leave a comment

Too many jobs, not enough quiet: In which I am spread too thin

My group office, in a rare quiet moment

My group office, in a rare quiet moment

To be in academia is to multitask.

As a principal investigator in a big university, it is becoming increasingly apparent that investigation is not my principal role. Yes, I run a lab (which is in turn defined by multitasks: supervising researchers; writing papers and grants; taking part in departmental activ Continue reading

Posted in Scientific thinking, Teaching, The profession of science, Writing | Leave a comment

Choosing your Path, Seizing Opportunities

I gave a talk today with this title at the Institute of Physics’ Careers Day ‘Taking Control of Your Career as a Female Physicist’. What I said is relevant to anyone setting out regardless of gender and, I suspect, regardless of discipline. They are, I believe, home truths from which most of us can benefit. Although women (and other minorities) may Continue reading

Posted in careers, failure, opportunities, resilience, Science Culture | Leave a comment

Eradicating Gender Stereotyping: How can Athena Swan Awards Help?

There is nothing like seeing gender stereotyping through reverse eyes to highlight its stupidity. Women are used to intrusive, inappropriate questions about their looks and dress, even in professional situations (see this recent story about Russian astronauts for an example); they are used to being judged by criteria quite different from men, be it Continue reading

Posted in Athena Swan, committees, leadership, Science Culture, Women in science | Leave a comment

Lisa Jardine, Health and Sickness

Like so many others, I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Lisa Jardine last week. She seems to have been able to cross many disciplinary boundaries and make an impact on so many individuals and spheres, her loss will leave a huge hole in the cultural and intellectual landscape of the UK. I only met her a handful of times but felt as if we Continue reading

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Beertown: anatomy of an American town

Omaha may not be known as a Mecca of the arts, but for a mid-sized Midwestern US city, there is no shortage of good theater. No, it’s not Broadway – although we do get the occasional traveling Broadway show that comes through – but the endemic talent of local playwrights, directors and actors is quite phenomenal.

This week I had the good fortune to Continue reading

Posted in actor, actors, arts, Beertown, democracy, omaha, Omaha Community Playhouse, playwright, Shelterbelt Theatre, The Motherhood Almanac | Comments Off on Beertown: anatomy of an American town

Asking the Right Questions

The quote from CP Scott, long-time editor of the (Manchester) Guardian, elegantly says ‘Comment is free, but facts are sacred.’ As a scientist I like gathering evidence, getting at the facts and so, when Paige Brown Jarreau asked me to participate in her survey of science blogs it seemed like a good idea. If you haven’t already completed her survey Continue reading

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Voting didn’t feel like enough this time

There’s a federal election in Canada tomorrow. I’ve always been very interested in politics, but this time around I feel more invested than ever before. Specifically, I want Harper out, with extreme prejudice. (If you don’t follow Canadian politics and aren’t sure what a politician could do to inspire such hatred, this recen Continue reading

Posted in Canada, Politics, science | Comments Off on Voting didn’t feel like enough this time