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Is Bigger Always Better?

Social distancing may have been reduced to 1(+)m – whatever that may mean – but that is still going to impose significant constraints on what a bench scientist can do. Fume cupboards in a line – how many of them can be accessed in a given session? How many shifts can you safely fit in during a day, with appropriate technical support to hand? How easily/safely can you clean a microscope between use Continue reading

Posted in bullying, careers, group size, pandemic, Science Culture, UKRI | Leave a comment

Echoes Down the Years of Education in a Pandemic

Recently, the Prime Minister announced an ‘apprentice guarantee’ saying ‘I think it’s going to be vital that we guarantee apprenticeships’.  Sounds good. How should that be translated into practice? Certainly, at the moment apprentices are having a tough time of it under the conditions of the pandemic, with businesses going under and on-site learning massively disrupted if not impossible in Continue reading

Posted in cultural capital, disadvantage, education, Hashi Mohamed, pandemic | Leave a comment

Pandemic Planning

At the start of our curriculum revision process three years ago I read many pedagogical articles about project-based learning. In addition to espousing the benefits and relating success stories, some of these articles detailed risks; difficulty in ensuring that all students are exposed to the key concepts, problems with adjusting to the learning style especially for first-generation college studen Continue reading

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Where’s Your Place in the World?

I don’t suppose there are many people in the country who currently feel grounded, confident they know how their lives will unfold and happy with that trajectory. At the moment, uncertainty seems the name of the game, responsibilities multiply and jobs – assuming you still have one – are changing radically. Not so long ago, wfh was an acronym that would have conveyed nothing and Zoom more usually m Continue reading

Posted in Clarissa Farr, pandemic, Science Culture, social distancing | Comments Off on Where’s Your Place in the World?

The Flattened Curve

The lockdown might have flattened the curve of infection and death, but it has also flattened the curve and swell of life. Existence has shrunk to fit within four walls; life ‘outside’ has largely been compressed within the flat rectangles of my phone and computer screens.

Life in lockdown

You might think that, as an academic, I would revel in the life of the mind, the kind many of us now have to accept whether w Continue reading

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In which we venture out

We are poised on the edge.

As the world teeters between spring and summer, cloaked in lush green and bursting into flower, there is a sense that our pandemic lockdown is coming to an end. Not all at once, of course, and not anywhere close to normal, but it is happening.

Freedom: a secluded swimming hole on the River Darent, last week, just before diving in

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Just Getting By: Coping and Learning

The pandemic is teaching each of us individually many things. Some may be things we might not want to know about ourselves: how resilient we are; how well we cope with four walls and a screen, perhaps with no other adult in sight; and how to stay optimistic in the face of global uncertainty. Other things may be more immediately useful. In that category I would certainly include mastering a range o Continue reading

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In the shadow of the great narcissist

Having written my last post titled “Preliminary lessons from a global pandemic” on March 8, before my self-imposed sequestration at home for the past 6 weeks, I find it too depressing to write a sequel on additional lessons. Much has been said about the complete failure of leadership in the US, and unfortunately, most of it is true. In fact, it’s often far worse than one could se Continue reading

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Yet Another Source of Inequality?

It is far too early to know what the long-term social, economic and educational impacts of the current pandemic are. However, some predictions are easier to make than others. One unfortunate but obvious side-effect is the perpetuation and accentuation of inequality. This is obviously true when it comes to schooling: if you don’t have a quiet room (or a room of one’s own, as Virginia Wolff would ha Continue reading

Posted in careers, COVID-19, CV, ECRs, Equality, Women in science | Comments Off on Yet Another Source of Inequality?

The still unsustainable goal of university ranking

The new and improved Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings 2020 were published this week with as much online fanfare as THE could muster. Unfortunately, they are not improved enough.

Screenshot of Duncan Ivison's article, which is surrounded by an advert bragging about Sydney University's ranking

Sydney University’s Duncan Ivison makes case for impact rankings. And then you notice the advert.

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Online Courses versus Online Teaching

When the ETH moved all of its classes online six weeks ago I channelled my corona anxieties into scouring the literature for best practices in online teaching pedagogy, and I discovered a wealth of scholarly studies and practical information on what kinds of instructional elements are most effective in online courses for optimising student learning.

Since I still had plenty of anxiety left over, I Continue reading

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What Should You Be Doing Now?

One of the questions you ought not to pose to someone – be it a mentor, supervisor or sponsor – is ‘what should I do?’ Because, the answer has to be: ‘that’s up to you’. There is no uniquely right career path, there is no right order in which to tick things off your career bucket list or boxes to tick all of which are the sine qua non to get you to the destination you want. There are, of course, p Continue reading

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Hey Mike. Mike? Mike.

Mike, can you hear me? Cannn youu hearrrr meee. Continue reading

Posted in covid19, Nonsense, Office life, personal | Comments Off on Clampdown

We’re All in This Together

If life were other, if we weren’t all ‘wfh’ and trying to stay sane as well as productive, today I would be putting the finishing touches to a talk I was due to give at the end of the week to graduate students at another university. Being the kind of person who always worries I’ll be struck down by an incapacitating migraine at the wrong moment, I tend not to leave talk-writing to the 11th hour/ o Continue reading

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In which we lock down


Pandemic existence: reaping what we’ve sown

There is nothing I can write about life on lockdown that has not already been written. Doing so risks the scorn of the likes of Times journalist Matthew Parris, who on Saturday opined:

I’m encountering what for me is an almost intolerable level of guff about reconnecting with nature, learning the joys of contemplation, home-cooking, realising how mu Continue reading

Posted in Domestic bliss, Gardening, staring into the abyss, The profession of science, work-life balance | Comments Off on In which we lock down