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Embedding the People in our Labs

Scientists are people, they have emotions and they interact with their peers, their students, their professors….and indeed the public. Sometimes, however, scientists are represented as interacting with little more than glassware or white lab coats. We can be perceived as living in a hermetically sealed bubble of our own construction occasionally ch Continue reading

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In which work-life balance wobbles

As with most academics, evenings and weekends often provide the extra time I need to stay on top of my workload. I’d rather sacrifice some family time than get behind – because once you’re behind, the anxiety sets in, making it increasingly harder to get anything meaningful done.

Work-life Balance
This weekend’s modest haul

Usually the chore Continue reading

Posted in academia, Domestic bliss, Gardening, Research, The profession of science, Women in science, Work/life balance | Leave a comment

Culture and Science

Culture arguably sits at the centre of our society, but what it means isn’t always clear. To many, too many I would say, it only refers to the ‘arty’ stuff: literature, films, art and music perhaps. That science could be part of culture, whilst rarely explicitly stated as impossible, generally seems to be regarded as not being the case. But then, w Continue reading

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How to deal with delicate situations in the lab

Welcoming diversity in the workplace has become second nature in the US, and I would venture to guess that the biomedical workplace has been paving the way for years. The reliance on international scientific talent in the US has truly made the biomedical science laboratory a mosaic of cultures, religions, ethnic groups and nationalities that could Continue reading

Posted in culture, diversity, ethnic, graduate student, lab, laboratory, Music, nationality, personal hygiene, PhD, postdoc, postdoctoral fellow, Research, science, smoking, student, tolerance | Leave a comment

Unravelling Grant Success Rates by Gender

I first realised that the problems I was facing might just, possibly, not be down to my own shortcomings when I read the 1999 MIT report on the Status of Women. For the first time it occurred to me that my failure to be persuasive in committee meetings, or to convince the head of department of the importance of my research area, or to be treated wi Continue reading

Posted in Equality, funders, mentoring, old boys' network, Women in science | Leave a comment

ICYMI No. 4: Books to read before university

This week’s Times Higher Education has a nice cover feature listing books recommended by various scholars to students preparing for university. More particularly, as the author of the piece, Matthew Reisz, explained to me in an email, “We are asking some leading academics to recommend a single book which they believe those towards the end of their Continue reading

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RIP Sir David MacKay

Many people have been paying tribute to David MacKay, who died on Thursday, and I would like to add my own voice. He was an extraordinary man who contributed so much to physics and wider societal issues during his tragically short life. Although I never worked directly with him, nor even interacted with him much during the many years we worked in t Continue reading

Posted in academia, Cavendish Laboratory, DECC, energy production, Sustainable Energy | Leave a comment

In which I feel a bit too old for this game sometimes

Age is a slippery thing. Most days I still feel like that tentative new PhD student, pulling 80-hour weeks at the University of Washington Health Sciences Center in Seattle. By the red glow of the safelight, I’d feed dusky rectangles of film into the developing machine and they’d emerge clear, slightly sticky and covered with a primitive pattern of Continue reading

Posted in Nostalgia, Scientific method, students, The profession of science | Leave a comment

On cooperation between dogs and squirrels

Warm beef topside baguette and a pint of Seafarer's


I’ve had a lovely morning walking round Harris’s Copse; not shooting anything, but seeing a few wood pigeons who are too easily spooked. A baguette and a pint for lunch from the Robin Hood, and back in, this time via the south entrance.

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What have I got to Lose?

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose’ sang Janis Joplin, and working out what – if anything – there is to lose in general is frequently a good strategy. This was brought home to me recently in discussing a young researcher’s plans. Having attended a confidence-building workshop she had returned to her office and decided to ch Continue reading

Posted in careers, decision, opportunity, risk, Science Culture | Leave a comment


When in doubt, read the instructions

is to productivity

what aphorisms are

to meaning.

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Posted in aphorism, book reviews, doubt, facebook, instructions, Life, life story, meaning, short poem | Leave a comment

Heroines We Still Need

I have not been able to think much about blogging recently due to a variety of factors culminating in the wedding last weekend of my daughter. Not that I had much to do with the organisation of the wedding but families and family business, as one of my recent posts spelled out, should be (and are) central to academics and scientists just as much to Continue reading

Posted in biography, Florence Nightingale, Mark Bostridge, statistics, Vera Brittain, Women in science | Leave a comment

What Works: A Review

My review of What Works Gender Equality by Design by Iris Bohnet can be found at Nature. This is a book that  is intended to be a guide to institutional action. I was somewhat underwhelmed, as my review makes plain. If you want a more positive take, you may also be interested in fellow Cantabrigian Victoria Bateman’s review in the Times Highe Continue reading

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ICYMI No. 3: Academic publishing on the radio

This is rather self-serving, even by my standards, but I made a plan with these “In Case You Missed It” posts and I’m sticking to it. I have been on the radio a couple of times in the past month talking about academic publishing. It’s not a topic that often gets aired so I  was pleased to see two radio buses come along in quick succession, so Continue reading

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Review: Heart of the Original

Steve Aylett’s short book on originality, creativity and individuality may conform externally to the rectilinear format of most other books but is otherwise highly elliptical. I found it maddening.

Heart of the Original
Heart of the Original – Alan Moore loved it. 

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