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You’re Crazy, It’s Impossible

Many people get told messages like this.  You’ll never manage this, you’re insane to try that, don’t even think about starting the other…..every reader will have their own particular bête noire version of these phrases thrown at them as a put down. Perhaps it was something you were told at 11 – ‘girls are no good at maths’ for instance, or ‘boys ar Continue reading

Posted in #Ididitanyway, Bernhard Schrefler, Science Culture, Womanthology, Women in science | Leave a comment

Transparency and the Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap has been much in the news with the revelations about the pay of the BBC’s superstars. Whatever you may feel about the level of remuneration for Chris Evans compared with Andrew Marr, whether you believe one is worth more or less than the other, I think it is clear there is little transparency in the process by which the ‘co Continue reading

Posted in BBC, Equal Pay Review, Equality, Glynis Breakwell | Leave a comment

Are Things Getting Better for Postdocs in Cambridge?

As a recent article in Nature pointed out, housing costs in Cambridge are a significant issue for new recruits to the university. As a city it suffers both from its proximity to London – well within commuter belt, as the busyness of the peak time trains attest – and from sitting at the centre of the thriving Cambridge cluster. It isn’t only the uni Continue reading

Posted in accommodation, North West Cambridge, Office for Postdoctoral Affairs, Research, Science Culture | Leave a comment

The meaning of sixty

I recently celebrated my sixtieth birthday. I had a very nice birthday party in a local pub with several friends and family members. Having plied them with food and drink I thought I’d earned the right to give a short homily about being sixty.  Here it is. At the end are a few photos from the evening. Continue reading

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In which we are snapped

Rohn Lab July 2017
Current Team Wee-Wee: Jane, Johannes, Dhan, Harry, Monika, Me, Kristina

I’ve been meaning to make a lab website for a long time now, but you know how it is: ten million other things intrude, higher priority items forever bumping lower ones down the queue. Even though I don’t yet have anywhere formal to put it, I thought it high time Continue reading

Posted in careers, Research, students, The profession of science | Leave a comment

On Project Management

Like many academics I am woefully untrained for many aspects of my job. My route to my position, which I think is a fairly common trajectory, was to spend much of my life learning how to solve other people’s science problems, then to go on to find that I have a knack for generating interesting problems of my own. This led to my very nice Prof Continue reading

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The Importance of Finding Nothing Out

‘Melts in the mouth, not in the hand’: so said a chocolate advertisement from my youth for the predecessor of Minstrels (a discontinued brand called Treets). Melting temperature is of course an important consideration when it comes to the elegance of stuffing your mouth full of chocolate, and chocolate-making is a science as well as an artisanal ar Continue reading

Posted in Andrew Cohen, chocolate, Hannah Devlin, Industrial Strategy Commission, Research, Science Culture | Leave a comment

Inching Forward

This week Cambridge University held its annual Diversity event, hosted by the Vice Chancellor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, always known as Borys. He has been an outstanding leader on this, as on so many fronts, but he is retiring as VC at the end of the academic year. Even at his initial interview he made it plain how close this particular topic was to Continue reading

Posted in double standards, Equality, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, The Meaning of Success, University of Cambridge, Women in science | Leave a comment

Visiting the Roots of the Industrial Revolution

I managed to sneak in a few days break in Derbyshire between two major College activities. It was good to escape to a less flat landscape than Cambridgeshire can manage and stretch my muscles up the steep hills that the small town of Wirksworth offers. Sitting at the south end of the Peak District just outside the National Park, it has a most unusu Continue reading

Posted in History of Science, quarries, Richard Arkwright, Wirksworth | Leave a comment

BAMEed: the voices of the people

At the beginning of June I attended the first BAMEed conference. It was an unexpectedly memorable and inspiring occasion.

BAMEed Conference 2017
Final panel discussion at #BAMEed2017

Though billed as an “unconference” – the sort of self-disorganising gathering popular among millennials of which old fogies like me have a horror – the one-day meeting had in fact been meti Continue reading

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Eternal Questions

My first tentative toe-dip into the Blogosphere turned out to be less scary than I imagined: No abusive messages or trolls, a little bit of enthusiasm via Twitter, email and the “Responses” section on the blog, and even an encouraging “Pingback” (thank you Hortense), which was certainly a new concept to me. Perhaps the most Continue reading

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In which I hire

A colleague I respect very highly once likened academic careers to a rocket launch: once you hit escape velocity, you’re safely in orbit. Problem is, achieving this state as a post-doc or untenured faculty is becoming increasingly difficult. Hundreds of eminently qualified people can apply for a prestigious fellowship, and the difference betw Continue reading

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The Challenge of Taking Time Out

I have been marking exams. However much students may and do hate taking the exams themselves, marking is also a very stressful period for those of us who have to do it. We wish to do it with the utmost rigour, yet the sheer number of scripts piled up on the desk makes that a formidable challenge. This year, for reasons beyond my control and that ar Continue reading

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The Chinese Hoax that affects the globe


Something wicked this way comes (R. Bradbury)

Our Dear Leader took to Twitter, his favorite media form, some years ago (and one would presume that it is his favorite because reading or writing more than 140 characters may be beyond his ability to concentrate), and said the following:

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Continue reading

Posted in climate change, hail, lightning, Nebraska, president, rain, science, severe weather, thunder, Trump, weather | Comments Off on The Chinese Hoax that affects the globe

The Patronising Colleague

Patronising and mansplaining are both irredeemably etymologically male. I cannot think of female equivalents. That isn’t to say that women can never be patronising or indulge in mansplaining, but I suspect the frequency with which they go in for such activities is rather less than for men. For many women, being patronised is an ever present annoyan Continue reading

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