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Freshers’ Fears

Freshers are pouring in to their new universities, finding their way around strange cities, unfamiliar halls of residence, learning the vocabulary of their new alma mater, drinking endless amounts of coffee/tea/beer/wine/shots as they attempt to work out who will be their new best mates and who their rivals. Challenging, scary and exhilarating time Continue reading

Posted in Churchill College, education, Impostor syndrome, Music | Leave a comment

Diversity skips African Americans in science

On a recent grant review panel, I was struck at the degree of diversity among the reviewers  at the table; with roughly twenty scientists in the group, I noted people who who hailed from at least nine different countries (not including the US) and four continents, spanning Europe, Asia and the globe. I found this to be a remarkable feat; almost hal Continue reading

Posted in affirmative action, African American, diversity, education, grant review, minorities, panels, Research, science | Leave a comment

Parliamentary Debacle?

This past week I have learned some things about our Parliamentary democracy I have never previously known I needed to know. I also got decidedly cross. It started with a tweet, a tweet from the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee proudly proclaiming its new membership: all male.

STC all male line up

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Posted in Jo Johnson, Science and Technology Select Committee, Science Funding, Vicky Ford, Women in science | Leave a comment

Marital High Jinks and Academia

I am quite sure I have never previously had occasion to write the name Wayne Rooney in any situation, but he does seem relevant to the topic of gendered sentences. Hadley Freeman wrote a withering piece last week about how this footballer’s conjugal incontinence is described – and his wife Colleen’s presumed state of mind in the face of it – versus Continue reading

Posted in Equality, feisty, Hadley Freeman, letters of reference, Science Culture, Wayne Rooney | Leave a comment

On Louise Richardson and the avoidance of homophobic teaching

Oxford Vice-Chancellor Louise Richardson is causing quite a stir this week. For one, she gets paid a lot of money – which is not as much as footballers or bankers and less than her peers in the US. Prof. Richardson’s salary is within the ‘going rate’ for VCs at the moment and certainly isn’t at the top of the VC pay Continue reading

Posted in Homophobia, Louise Richardson, Oxford University | Leave a comment

The Summer is Over

I have recently returned (so yes, I feel the summer is over) from a few days holiday in places far less flat than Cambridge which provided enough time to sink into the unusual bliss of uninterrupted reading. So, rather than do an end-of-year summary of books as seems common, let me share my late summer trio of ‘good reads’. Each very different, eac Continue reading

Posted in biography, book review, Jan Henrik Schön, migraine, Robert McCrum, Science Culture, William Armstrong | Leave a comment

Making real change happen

For those of my readers who are new to my writing, karibuni. Stay with me. The video is for the sake of nostalgia. I am going through a nostalgic phase at the moment.

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Posted in Blogging about having been at a conference, Change, conference, conferences, Inducing, Life | Leave a comment

What do other departments do?


Whenever you have a hard problem to solve, check first whether someone has already solved it.


Not wanting to reinvent the wheel (and hoping to benefit from the hard work of others) we decided to take a look at the processes used by other Materials departments to introduce project-based learning into their programs. Continue reading

Posted in education, Materials Science | Leave a comment

Science in the Trump era

Shortly after the inauguration of Trump as president of the US, this country has entered a new “post-truth” era. The president, who undoubtedly has serious (and perhaps justifiable) feelings of inferiority and insecurity along with his narcissism–despite outward posturing–claimed that his inauguration crowd size was larger t Continue reading

Posted in alternative facts, inauguration, kellyanne conway, liar, lies, m, mendacious, mitochondria, narcissistic personality disorder, president, president obama, Research, science, sean spicer, Trump | Leave a comment

Admissions in Balance

Last October when I sat at the undergraduate Matriculation Dinner and looked across Churchill College’s large Hall, I was dismayed to see that the proportion of Freshers was very far from a 50:50 mix of men and women. I am sure I was not alone amongst the Fellowship in recognizing that the College that had been pioneering when it voted to admit fem Continue reading

Posted in Churchill College, education, Equality, matriculation, women | Leave a comment

You only got it ’cause you’re a girl

unconscious bias

This week there was a fabulous article, by Alison Coil, on the bias against women in the sciences and why men don’t believe it exists. For ‘men’ you could just as well read ‘the establishment’ because we know not all men and we know that some of those ‘men’ might as well be women that have ‘made it& Continue reading

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In which I present my third lab lit novel, Cat Zero – out soon!

Cat Zero cover art

Placeholder cover art…with thanks to Sergei, the neighbour’s photogenic feline

I’m pleased to announce the imminent publication of my third lab lit novel, Cat Zero, with Bitingduck Press, a science-friendly indie imprint out of Altadena, California.

I have always wanted to write a story starring feline leukemia virus (FeLV), the su Continue reading

Posted in Lablit, Nostalgia, Work/life balance, Writing | Leave a comment


Erika, undergraduate edition.

Erika, undergraduate edition, with a fellow student.

I do love how I used to be as an undergraduate. During a clear out, I found an academic diary from the first year of my undergraduate studies.

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Posted in Nostalgia | Leave a comment

References from the Past

It is a standard part of our job and our responsibilities to write letters of reference for students and postdocs, past and present. But I sometimes get very frustrated by those who ask me to write a letter of support for them, when they are not not just from my past, but from my very deep past. No doubt the person who makes the request believes th Continue reading

Posted in CV, letters of reference, Science Culture, students | Leave a comment

Laying Ghosts to Rest

Many years ago I was invited to give one of the keynote talks at a conference in the USA. I was  young and I was flattered. It was a Conference on Polymer Physics held on the east coast of America. It was a big deal to go, not least because it was the first time I had been away for a week from my young children (then aged 2 and 4) and I was really Continue reading

Posted in conferences, Equality, Science Culture, self-confidence, sexism | Comments Off on Laying Ghosts to Rest