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Where are the Modest Men?

A hashtag debuting this week has caused quite a stir on Twitter: #immodestwomen. In the wake of a US newspaper deciding not to accord anyone the title of Dr in its articles, unless they were medical doctors, historian Dr Fern Riddell tweeted

My title is Dr Fern Riddell, not Ms or Miss Riddell. I have it because I am an expert, and my life and career consist of being that expert in as many differen Continue reading

Posted in Amplification, Dr Fern Riddell, Equality, immodest women, mansplaining | Leave a comment

On reporting and pedagogy

While writing lots of proposals to fund my research is not something I miss about my pre-ETH existence, I was reminded this week of one aspect of my former proposal-supported research life that had some value: Reporting. This reflection was prompted by the visit of Sara and myself to the “Freitagsrunde” — a weekly (on Friday of course) meeting of a teaching committee made up of s Continue reading

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Being Critical

When discussing the skills students pick up – and need to pick up – during their undergraduate courses in a subject like physics, I always highlight the fact that they learn how to be critical, notably about assumptions underpinning an analysis. What assumptions are the right ones and why? When might they not apply? And if the underlying suppositions break down, what else can be done to solve the Continue reading

Posted in assumptions, education, errors, exams, marking, Research | Leave a comment

Disruptive publishing

To build a successful career in scientific research you need to understand the scientific publishing system. It is going through a period of change and innovation but has remained largely intact. Recently I and a colleague ran some ‘Disruptive Publishing’ coffee break sessions to highlight some of the changes in science publishing to our researcher community. I produced a factsheet sum Continue reading

Posted in Journal publishing, Open Access | Leave a comment

The Only Woman in the Room

As the Master of a Cambridge College it probably isn’t surprising that I get asked to talk about Leadership, and often more specifically Women in Leadership/as Leaders, but there is nothing that brings out the inner impostor in me faster than such a request. I have, after all, never received any training and yet am expected to deliver wise words on the subject by way of training others. Recently I Continue reading

Posted in board membership, Equality, gender pay gap, Philip Hampton | Leave a comment

In which Cat Zero arrives on the scene; plus some other literary shenanigans

It’s nearly showtime: my third lab lit novel Cat Zero is about to be published! After a several-month delay due to issues of US distribution, I am pleased to confirm an official publication date of Tuesday 5 June!

Yes, that’s next Tuesday! Just today, as I was working from home on various academic tasks, the postman rang the doorbell and delivered a few boxes of books hot off the press Continue reading

Posted in Lablit, Writing | Leave a comment

Writing, Creativity and Grief

What acts are best to provoke creativity? Some poets – from Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Dylan Thomas – seem to have felt that drug- or alcohol- induced hazes may be effective, but I don’t think many scientists would recommend that route. Discussing unanticipated results with colleagues at the conference bar is probably as far as alcohol wisely enters into the scientist’s lexicon of inspiratio Continue reading

Posted in Communicating Science, Dictionary of National Biography, Sir Sam Edwards, Thomas Edison | Leave a comment

Strategic Developments at UKRI

The new super-research council (in UK terms) UKRI that acts as an umbrella organisation – sitting above the seven research councils plus Innovate UK and Research England – launched its Strategic Prospectus a few days ago. Not so much a strategy, more an attempt to set out the steps needed to be taken and the areas to be focussed on as the new organisation attempts to formulate its actual strategy Continue reading

Posted in Horizon2020, interdisciplinarity, Interdisciplinary Science, Nurse Review, place, Science Funding | Leave a comment

In which a new Doctor is born

No, not that Doctor. (Besides, I’m not sure any graduate student would care to regenerate and repeat the experience for all eternity!)

My first PhD candidate, Harry Horsley, recently had his viva. Here he is, about an hour before the event:

Smiles in the face of impending Doom

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Posted in academia, careers, students, The profession of science | Comments Off on In which a new Doctor is born

How might the Athena Swan Process Emerge?

When groups of (comparative) strangers sit around a table, it is impossible to predict what will emerge in the way of new ideas. Readers of this blog will not be surprised to know that I think diversity – of background, skin colour, discipline and gender – may all lead to better decisions than a monoculture is liable to produce, but that list should probably also be extended (in academic circles a Continue reading

Posted in AdvanceHE, Athena Forum, diversity, Equality, letters of reference, Women in science | Comments Off on How might the Athena Swan Process Emerge?

Once upon a time there was respect for scientists…

Some families sit together and watch sitcoms, entertainment, or sports. Not my family; we are the classic science geeks. Two parents who both are researchers with a lab to run, one adult child who is a sophomore microbiology/biochemistry student at university, and a high schooler with a love for all things math and physics and an interest, potentially, in medicine. What do we watch? Recently we be Continue reading

Posted in Charité, education, Erich, Koch, Professor, Research, science, von Behring | Comments Off on Once upon a time there was respect for scientists…

Book reviews – Knowledge Translation edition

I realised recently that the “everything I used to blog about is now on Twitter or Goodreads instead” trend of recent years means that I never got around to mentioning my new job!

After ten years of grant writing and project management at the BC Cancer Agency, I moved to a new role at UBC and BC Children’s Hospital in November as a Knowledge Translation Specialist, focusing on epigenetics. ( Continue reading

Posted in blog buddies, book review, career, communication, cycling, Knowledge translation | Comments Off on Book reviews – Knowledge Translation edition

The best experiment

It has been a long winter, but spring is finally here. It’s a beautiful day, starting from breakfast on the deck, watching the birds over the lake.


And it’s time for someone who hasn’t done an experiment in a dozen years (at least with his own hands) to pick up–not a pipette–a garden trowel.

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Posted in backyard garden, farmer, Research, science, tomatoes | Comments Off on The best experiment

In which science imitates life, number 365: zones of death in public transport

I was waiting for the bus this past weekend, ridiculously early to get my son to his swimming lesson across town. Or so I thought.

We waited, and waited, and Joshua jumped up and down anxiously, looking adorable with his lobster rucksack bouncing on his back, asking over and over, “Mama, why isn’t the bus coming?”

Quite. Continue reading

Posted in Joshua, Scientific thinking, Silliness | Comments Off on In which science imitates life, number 365: zones of death in public transport

Pineapple Head

A little while ago I managed not only to photograph the Google StreetView car somewhere in Fitzrovia, but also to capture the picture it took of me doing it.

Earlier today I was on my way to Halfords and find myself peering at a more advanced model, in reverse gear at a traffic light.

It might be time to re-offer that drink to the first person to spot me tailing MK14 NWT. Continue reading

Posted in Don't try this at home, Google, Silliness, StreetView | Comments Off on Pineapple Head