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How *NOT* to deliver a seminar

It seems that people are apt to try and recreate or relive their greatest successes, and it turns out that I am not immune to this behavior. Some years ago, a combination of exasperation and disbelief coupled with an attempt to educate others led me to publish a satirical piece called “How NOT to get a lab job.” http://www.lablit.com/article/668

In those years I was besieged with a multitude of po Continue reading

Posted in education, How NOT to get a lab job, how to deliver a presentation, How to give a seminar, humor, postdoc, postdoctoral fellow, presentation, Research, science, talk, tips on presenting a seminar | Leave a comment

To Honour Those Forced Out #IWD19

For International Women’s Day I want to take as my theme, the lines from Ecclesiasticus

And some there be who have no memorial, who are perished as though they had never been…

This is not because I’ve suddenly acquired a desire to become a lay preacher. Indeed the reason I know those lines is because we used to sing that verse, and those surrounding them, as a rather mournful dirge at my school’s Continue reading

Posted in Camden School for Girls, Ecclesiasticus, Science Culture, Women in science | Leave a comment

As the Years Pass, What’s Changed?

Another year and International Women’s Day (IWD is on March 8th) is fast approaching. In a rather wonderful coincidence this year the date marks exactly 50 years since the Fellowship of Churchill College voted to admit women, the very first of the initially all male Cambridge colleges to do so. To celebrate this event I will be holding a public conversation with Alison Finch, one of the first thre Continue reading

Posted in Alison Finch, Churchill College, International Women's Day, Women in science | Leave a comment

The Interdisciplinary Challenge

This week I am talking at an event in London marking (I believe) the launch of Nature Reviews Physics, but the emphasis of this event will be on the promotion of best working practices in ‘physics and interdisciplinary science’, as it was phrased in the letter of invitation. In other words, what do physicists have to offer other disciplines and how can we work optimally together? Three of us will Continue reading

Posted in crossing boundaries, Interdisciplinary Science, nature, Research, starch | Leave a comment

Making it up as I go along

Until recently, I dreaded public speaking. Hated it, even. No-one told me, when I set out to become a scientist, that presenting my work in front of an audience would be expected. Being scheduled to give a talk, to immediate colleagues or to a conference audience, could ruin the day if not the entire conference. I still get anxious now, but I am not so disabled. I have a greater capacity to handle Continue reading

Posted in Comedy, conferences, Fun, Improv, Life, presenting | Leave a comment

2018’s Greatest Hits

As promised, 2018’s top eleven photographs, since every year I’m blatantly unable to reduce the list to just ten. Also as promised, for once I haven’t waited for over a year to post them.

Saturday night in Zhengzhou
Saturday night, Zhengzhou
Unusually for me, an iPhone photo, upholding that tired adage that the best camera is the one you have with you. An evening stroll near the Songshan hotel, with some A Continue reading

Posted in Hobbies, Music, nature, Photography, racing, travel | Comments Off on 2018’s Greatest Hits

Which Skills for a PhD Student?

Training of PhD students. It’s a big topic and large sums of money are involved. As I wrote in the autumn, there are concerns about the decisions that are being made. With the recent announcement of 75 new Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) by the EPSRC, the topic is bound to be in the air again. The blog-that-calls-itself UKRI Observatory did its third analysis of what was going on. This analys Continue reading

Posted in CDTs, education, Phd student training, Science Culture, UKRI | Comments Off on Which Skills for a PhD Student?

Reflecting on International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Today – February 11th – is the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day not only to celebrate those who have managed to study science and forged their careers within it, but to focus minds on how to open up science to many more girls around the world. In some parts of the world education of any sort for girls is hard fought for, as Malala has made so manifest, but in others – i Continue reading

Posted in academia, Excellence, Sally Davies, The Lancet, Unconscious bias, Women in science | Comments Off on Reflecting on International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Retreating on

Moving on from the revelation that we are all biased in spite of our best intentions, Day 2 of our curriculum revision retreat started with the task of defining the essential lab skills that every graduating materials scientist should have in their repertoire, then thinking about suitable short (half-day) experiments that would allow our students to acquire them. In order to leave time for the se Continue reading

Posted in education, Materials Science | Comments Off on Retreating on

Preprints and science news

I’ve written before about preprints and science news. That blogpost was occasioned by the open letter last summer from Fiona Fox at the Science Media Centre on the subject, and the follow-up comment piece by Tom Sheldon in Nature. Mine was just one of several responses, most of which sought to defend preprints from the perceived attack. The discussion served to demonstrate that preprints have bec Continue reading

Posted in Communicating Science, embargoes, Preprints | Comments Off on Preprints and science news

Zombies and Narratives


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 400px-Lise_Meitner_%281878-1968%29%2C_lecturing_at_Catholic_University%2C_Washington%2C_D.C.%2C_1946.jpg

If you have never seen the ‘zombie Marie Curie’ xkcd cartoon I’d encourage you to take a look. In it Marie Curie says ‘I wish they’d get over me’ and enumerates a couple of other key women scientists who don’t get the same name recognition (specifically Lise Meitner, whose photograph is at the top, and Emmy Noether). Cartoon Marie also highlights that choosing her – or any female scientis Continue reading

Posted in biography, Hedy Lamarr, Lise Meitner, Marie Curie, Women in science, xkcd | Comments Off on Zombies and Narratives

Thinking globally about research evaluation – LIS-Bibliometrics talk

Last Tuesday I attended the 2019 LIS-Bibliometrics meeting which focused on open metrics and measuring openness. I was part of a panel that was asked to discuss the topic “Thinking globally about research evaluation: common challenges, common solutions”. Chaired by Lizzie Gadd from Loughborough University, the panel also included Ian Rowlands (King’s College) and Kate Williams (Harvard Unive Continue reading

Posted in science | Comments Off on Thinking globally about research evaluation – LIS-Bibliometrics talk

In which we grow towards the light

It’s that time of year when the long winter starts to nibble away at your core. Everything feels cold, dark, and dormant, held in abeyance until better times. The festive period is a distant memory, and spring seems so far away that it hurts.

Joshua harvesting parsnips

Of course in this mild climate, the lock-down doesn’t feel quite so absolute. In our garden, a few stubborn ros Continue reading

Posted in Domestic bliss, Gardening, Joshua, Scientific thinking, work-life balance | Comments Off on In which we grow towards the light

Unconscious Bias Consciousness

I’m writing this post from the wonderful Kartause Ittingen where 25 DMATL lecturers, as well as our teaching administration and a colleague from  the ETH Educational Development Center are “Retreating”. Exactly two years and many hundreds of person-hours work since our kick-off retreat, my hope is that our curriculum will magically come together as a coherent and glorious whole, Continue reading

Posted in education, Materials Science | Comments Off on Unconscious Bias Consciousness

Feeling Exhausted


This week I came across an article highlighting the accumulated evidence from multiple studies of the disadvantage women in science suffer, with specific reference to the fields of anthropology, ecology and evolution, the field the author – Kathleen Grogan – had most familiarity with. My own experience would suggest there is nothing unique about those fields. She identified all the reasons Continue reading

Posted in bias, bullying, leaky pipeline, MIT, Science Culture, Women in science | Comments Off on Feeling Exhausted