The Lure of Procrastination

Why do you procrastinate? Since most people are guilty of this failing at least some of the time, few readers are likely to say ‘what me, I never do!’ I believe the reasons are many and various but I must admit I hadn’t thought the remedy lay in taking on a mentoring role. But apparently there is some evidence to suggest that, by mentoring someone more junior, it is possible to rebuild confidence and the author of that article believes it is a lack of confidence that often provokes the procrastination itself. That makes sense.

But it isn’t just a lack of confidence that means getting started on a job can seem so hard. One may have confidence that the job can be done and yet still not know quite where to start. If I were asked to identify what the underlying causes of my own procrastination are this would be near the top of my list (along with sheer boredom regarding the task in hand, which happens only too often too). You know that feeling when six months ago you were asked to come up with some enticing title for a seminar or talk but when you sit down actually to write the thing a few days before you have to deliver it you have no idea what you had in mind? Why did you call it something as interesting as ‘The amoeba in me’ or ‘The joys of the REF’? (These are for illustrative purposes only; I have not used these titles myself but you get my point).

That is the sort of task I find it only too easy to put off. I can try to fool myself by saying that I’m ‘mulling’, that I’m trying to work out all the key points I want to cover under that mysterious title, but the reality is almost certainly that I have no idea how to get going and it is only when time pressures really mount that some sort of creative juice kicks in. Of course many a seminar turns out not to live up to its title, so if push comes to shove as the date gets ever closer and I’m down to the last 48 hours to produce something, it is sometimes possible to divert from the stated title after a few slides and morph into something that feels closer to home and therefore safer (or indeed, to mix and match from previous talks. I try never to give identically the same one in more than one venue.) I have never yet failed to produce a talk to give, although I did once write a talk and fail to deliver it. High winds brought the cables down so that the trains were massively disrupted and I only turned up for the rather nice dinner afterwards: very frustrating having, on that occasion, managed to write a totally new talk I have never yet had occasion to give – or reuse.

The other reason at the top of my own list of procrastination drivers is one I remember well from student days when faced with revision. As so many of us do, I would set myself targets in advance: 4 hours on topic A in the morning, a break for lunch and then 3 hours later in the day on topic B. However, if I failed to get started promptly – some much appreciated distraction such as a friend dropping by or the siren call of a further cup of coffee – then it felt as if I couldn’t start at all, that I hadn’t left myself enough time to do what I’d set out to do so I wouldn’t even begin. Is that a feeling others recognize?

That distraction tactic of making a cup of tea/coffee/ toast/ urgently going in search of a bar of chocolate (whatever your pet vice may be) is one that works wonderfully well as a procrastination tactic. Sitting down at the computer thinking about that tricky email or start to a section of thesis or paper, a blank page can be enough to drive one away to the kitchen. It doesn’t help, of course, that blank page still stares resolutely back at you when you return whatever length of time you’ve managed to waste. But time and time again I find it is possible to go off to seek that inspiration in the kitchen only to find it doesn’t arrive and the challenge of whatever composition you’re trying to do still confronts you upon return.

It would be a mistake to omit one of everyone’s ‘favourite’ procrastination tactics, the sink of time that is the internet and twitter. Be it following the horror of US politics (or indeed some of our very own politicians’ actions) or merely watching the recent infamous video of the bear cub trying to get up the snow-covered rocks to its mother, there is always a ready-made way of wasting time that my student days way back when was not hampered by. Sitting at a computer attached to wifi the temptation to peep at a favourite news-site, blog or social media platform can be very strong. That way hours can be dissipated with nothing to show for it. The wise, no doubt, turn off their wifi connection.

This post was inspired by the idea that lack of confidence can sit at the heart of procrastination. Perhaps that really is equivalent to my saying not knowing where to begin is one of my own drivers for putting things off and off, although the emphasis is placed a bit differently. And confidence – or lack thereof– is undoubtedly also going to underpin a reluctance to commit thoughts to paper (as in my own third reason) although I’m not sure confidence issues entirely feed into letting the internet devour one’s time. That, I suspect, is more a case of succumbing to easy temptation.  We all have our own bad habits that stop us being endlessly productive. Perhaps sometime it is helpful to pull them out of the dark and dissect them to see them for what they are – and then to stuff them back again and head off to make a cup of coffee.



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To Be or Not to Be a Role Model

When you grow up what do you want to be? That is a familiar enough question but I’ve never heard of anyone who expected the answer to be ‘a role model’. Yet there are those who have an expectation that women who become visible in the hard sciences should automatically step up to the mark to help the next generation. Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of women supporting other women, wherever they may be in the hierarchy, but I worry that the expectation of acting as a ‘role model’ is just another burden placed on those who may feel they have had quite enough dumped on them already.

Donna Strickland, she of the recent Nobel Prize in Physics, has incurred ire in some quarters for not immediately assuming the mantle of champion for other women. She would appear, from the interviews of hers that I have read, to have avoided some of the misogyny, the vitriol and the condescension and much worse that many women – in STEM and just about everywhere – have suffered. We may feel that she is either unbelievably lucky or blind but it still does not mean, in my opinion, that she has to speak up for those who have so suffered. Has anyone suggested that either of the men who shared the prize with her should suddenly assume some new responsibility (be it role model or anything else) while they are probably still digesting the fact that yes, they did actually win?

If Marie Curie (dead and therefore voiceless) can be consistently held up as a role model for aspiring female scientists, can Donna Strickland not be allowed to assume the same voiceless part? Let us celebrate that finally a third woman has received what, to many, is seen as the ultimate accolade of a Nobel, without making her life harder by loading her with the responsibility of inspiring future scientists or cheering up those who are suffering under bad management surrounded by rotten colleagues. Her image can be used in classrooms up and down the land without needing her personally to follow the image into the schools. She needn’t describe bad experiences that others have suffered if she herself has had an easier path to success merely to remind others that women frequently do get a raw deal. After all, authenticity and integrity matter and if she is simply uttering other people’s stories she isn’t likely to be all that inspiring after all.

Being the woman who is meant to inspire other women does not come at zero cost. It requires both time and energy; time which many researchers would rather devote to their labs or their students, energy that may be in short supply given the vicissitudes of academia. I was struck by the reaction of a younger colleague of mine when she had just faced her first audience of would-be university applicants, all female, as she told them her life story. Wow, she said, it was just so exhausting. And it is, to give of oneself, to make a narrative and to relive parts of one’s life that may not always have been pleasant (if one is honest, and has had bad experiences). Of course sometimes it is imperative to warn the scientists-of-the-future that life will have setbacks (whether because of one’s gender or not), that research does not go in a straight line and not all one’s colleagues are angels. That is the reality and if reality is what is wanted to inspire, then it’s going to come at a cost for the speaker. Others should not assume that all senior women are cut out to do this, that they all want to do this, or that they all should do this.

It would be convenient, it might even be helpful for the next generation, if every woman stepped up to the mark. It might make others feel good. But at what price? If their science suffers because this is just another task imposed on women that men do not have to undertake, it adds up to just yet one more bit of ‘academic housekeeping’ of which women already get more than their fair share. I would be more convinced this was useful if the evidence was clear, but in fact it is distinctly nuanced on the true impact of role models. People assume it must always be a good thing, but if you read this article from the US you may realise it simply isn’t that straightforward.

Perhaps before we put an expectation on every woman who’s made it just a little way up the greasy academic ladder that they need to get out there and champion other women and bare their souls about the horrors they may (or may not) have faced, we should – as good scientists – take a harder look at the evidence. There are, apparently (I direct you to another paper in the Psychology literature on role models in general) more and less effective ways of having a positive effect. Just having a stream of women entering the classroom and saying ‘all girls should consider studying STEM’ is not going necessarily to change the percentages taking Physics A level. Having successful women stand up and say look at me, I’ve won this massive prize and if you just work harder then you too might get plaudits, may lead as much to an inferiority complex, reinforcing impostor syndrome and a feeling of ‘I’m not like that’ as to inspiration.

Each and every woman, successful or not, should be allowed to make their own decisions as to which tasks they take on. They should not feel they have to do something just because others would find it desirable. This applies as much to whether they should do pastoral work, sit on the childcare committee or engage in public engagement because there is a shortage of colleagues (male) who are willing or asked to take these roles on, as to the expectation of being a role model. Any women can be one simply by doing the best they can, permitting their images to be used in glossy departmental brochures and winning prizes to remind other folk women are good at their subject. They do not need to put up their hand to give endless talks to audiences about their life story to the detriment of their careers and science. They do not need to remind the world they have had it hard, particularly if they have not as Donna Strickland implied, and if they would rather not.

As someone who has given more narrative talks than I would care to remember, as someone who I think would be regarded as a champion of women, I would say the best way to champion women is not to put expectations on any single woman that would not be expected of a man. I would remind readers that taking an active role in this sphere can sometimes feel overwhelming and exhausting, even if rewarding. I am happy to see a third woman win the Nobel Prize in Physics. I am happy that she should enjoy the rewards of that prize without being told she is letting the side down because she doesn’t immediately see the need to put herself into the media as a woman’s champion.

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Will I not be ‘Important’?

This is the troubled question Jeremy Baumberg asks rhetorically in his recent book The Secret Life of Science when he discusses the vexed question of what happens if he decides not to attend some conference, along with

‘Will I no longer be seen as a significant actor in the discipline?’ and

‘Will I not be party to conversations that build a mutual support club?’

Jeremy – a colleague of mine in Cambridge – has a pretty jaundiced view of conferences, but I am troubled by this list of questions which are all about where he (metaphorically, as I’m sure he is asking these questions as the universal scientist rather than as himself specifically) stands in some mythical pecking order rather than whether better science will be done. I feel this is a dangerous viewpoint. Throughout this chapter Jeremy is highlighting the pitfalls of the conference, but his words throughout do seem to convey a sense of ego being the motivation for conferences rather than the joy of science and the wish to move it forward.

I share his somewhat jaded view of conferences – but then that’s easy to say having ‘enjoyed’ (if that’s the right word) a lifetime of them. I feel this chapter (and I haven’t finished the whole book yet, so I can’t comment on what comes next) would be enough to deter any but the keenest PhD student or postdoc from wishing to attend a conference of any sort. Yet these researchers are exactly the ones who should go, while they are still expanding their horizons, when they haven’t already heard the eminent keynote speakers give the same talk fifteen times already and when some friendly challenges around their poster or oral presentation may be most helpful to them. The early career researcher has much to learn from interacting with others like them, sharing experiences (good and bad), or getting informal low-down on techniques when their green fingers aren’t as experimentally developed as researchers in a different lab.

I remember the heady days of my first poster session, when older scientists whose papers I had carefully studied stopped by my poster to see what developments I was laying claim to. I got to put faces to names, and began to realise that being famous did not mean (when I attended their own talks) necessarily being charismatic or crisp in presentation style. It is good to realise one’s hero(in)es may not be perfect. I remember the first oral presentation I gave – when someone (a stranger, although they may have been very eminent) came up to me afterwards and said they’d never heard anyone talk so fast or try to compress so much into 20 minutes; useful criticism, although I suspect my pace of talking is often still too fast.

Jeremy seems to dislike conferences because there are too many of them. That is doubtless true, and some of them are predatory and some are pointless. But, for established scientists I really don’t believe it’s necessary to trek around the world just because some organising committee has invited you. I decided, once my children came along, that travel was one of those things that just had to be jettisoned in order to make my life work, and I stuck to that for many years until it just became a habit. If my reputation was diminished because of this I felt it was a price worth paying.

As I wrote some years ago in an early blogpost

‘Some travel is vital, much may be as much about ego-stroking and having interesting experiences in exotic parts of the world as actually being productive for your career. Don’t assume more is necessarily better.’

I still believe that, and that perhaps is where Jeremy and I differ. Staying in the lab, talking to your students and writing grant proposals has much to recommend it compared with some conferences I have attended. The mega-conferences mean you often can’t catch the one person you really wanted to see. Parallel sessions which get out of sync mean you may also miss the one talk you absolutely wanted to hear because the session you were trapped in overran. And, at one particularly frustrating conference I recall in Boston, people were mainly just sitting in the corridors dealing with their email rather than actually attending anything – which makes the travel even more pointless. It’s healthy to remember there is a real cost – in carbon, in bucks – as well as an opportunity cost when spending too much time on the road or in the air.

Of course, as a later stage scientist we all have a responsibility to organise conferences sensibly. Not to convene conferences just for the sake of it, or to fix them annually merely to get to interesting locations. We should not see them (to quote the analogy Jeremy uses), or our appearance at them, as

‘fantastical displays made to woo potential sexual mates (of either gender).’

There must be a clear reason for them.

I have some fond memories of conferences here at Churchill College, long before I had any association with the college otherwise. There was the triennial international conference in my field where I could note my progress from nervous novice, through to being invited onto ‘top table’ at the conference dinner to joining the organising committee. As it was only triennial it was a big deal and all the major groups would come along. Discussion was, as they say, robust, but there was a palpable feeling of the field moving forward. And when it seemed like the field had matured the conference ceased, or at least it moved to a new home in the Netherlands with a new emphasis (and I never attended it again).

Then there was a different conference that a triumvirate of us dreamed up to bring researchers in starch from many perspectives together, from physics and computational model to biotechnology to plant science. We mixed the sessions up so that people would not just attend talks in their own fields. It succeeded beyond our dreams and we held a second conference four years later also here at Churchill. At that second conference one of the keynote speakers offered me a hundred mutants of maize starch. At that point I realised as a physicist I had done what I wanted in starch. Recalling Lord Rutherford’s alleged quote

‘Physics is the only real science. The rest are just stamp collecting.’

I felt I was in danger of entering stamp collecting territory and moved on.

Meetings come in many sizes. I prefer the smaller meetings where there is time to share ideas, talk to the newcomers in the field and generally profit from the people around. In the UK national meetings in a particular field are often small enough that the discussion is fruitful and students and postdocs are encouraged to talk.  We need such meetings. We need to ensure students find their voice, learn what works and how to engage with questions of all sorts, from the simple and the silly, to the truly challenging and worrying.  We should definitely encourage students to attend such meetings, even if the surroundings are not as glamorous as Hawaii or Acapulco but a mere ‘60’s hall of residence.

But, above all, we should not use conferences or meetings simply as display of our glorious colours with no thought of the science itself. Jeremy is right to be jaded, but I think he maybe is overfocussed on motivations that are good neither for the individual nor the discipline.


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Our Bullying Culture

Many of you will have already seen the OpEd I wrote in the Guardian last week on the subject of bullying and harassment in our universities. I was heartened by the response it received, in so far as it was in part intensely personal and, since it is always uncomfortable to lay oneself open, I was encouraged to receive many messages thanking me for writing it. But in other ways the responses were predictably deeply disheartening because they highlight the pain so many of our students and colleagues – be they academic or other members of university staff – are subjected to. I received messages ranging from a former head of department whose health broke down so that he retired early after receiving no support in attempting to deal with a department member who was clearly harassing female students, to the parent of a student who knew how close their child had come to dropping out because of ongoing bullying. The stories were tragic. The cure so elusive.

meaning of success

It is easy to think bullying is straightforward to spot and if only people stood up to it, then it would go away, but – perhaps unlike sexual harassment – bullying is not always easy to define. At what point is it appropriate to lose one’s cool with a student who is being lazy and partying too much? Does a one-off shouting match amount to bullying? Shouting may always be regrettable, but we are not all saints all of the time. I know this week I became, shall we say, brusque with a member of my department over a trivial administrative hiccough and I felt ashamed (and subsequently apologised) as a result. But I hope that wasn’t bullying! On the other hand ongoing shouting matches with anyone, especially when the shouting is deliberately designed to humiliate or force the other person into submission, that is definitely bullying.

In academic science, there is plenty of this latter sort of behaviour. The power imbalance can be poisonous. It does not have to be the supervisor themselves who is the problem either (although it often may be), but perhaps a more senior student or postdoc. The student who is working together with such a person, let’s call them Dr A, when everyone else has gone home, and who finds a clumsy pass is made, may find it difficult to know how to extricate themselves without upsetting the other’s amour propre. If they fail – as was recounted to me by one now mid-career researcher – they risk Dr A being completely unhelpful from then on.  Nothing needs to be said but suddenly the help is no longer available, sarcastic comments become the normal mode of Dr A’s communication and in seminars they belittle what the student is presenting. Such behaviour is enough to undermine confidence but hard to quantify to other people.  But, when Dr A is the supervisor it is even more pernicious. Everything hangs on this person’s good opinion: letters of reference, names on papers (and the position of the names) and general support.  How can you answer back?

Sometimes I do believe people behave stupidly rather than maliciously. We are all capable of being blind to our own behaviour. I gave one example of this in the Guardian article, but I know plenty of people who can be very supportive in one situation –perhaps exactly those where their amour propre is not being threatened or they do not feel the individual is important enough to challenge them – yet deeply unpleasant in another. I’ve had a book thrown at me in a temper across a table by someone who, in other circumstances – as independent witnesses have testified to me completely out of the blue – is delightful and understanding. I’ve seen people who expend enormous energy on the Athena Swan process yet still intimidate their colleagues on a daily basis.  I know those who are enormously helpful to young (in the cases I know, female) students yet as these students reach independence the interaction suddenly changes to something more hostile. Such people may also never recognize that the administrators are worthy of respect at all.

Every reader will have their own stories to tell – of bad behaviour they have observed or suffered – but perhaps in some ways the most depressing story of all I heard was the one describing a systemic problem when, as part of an Athena Swan Action Plan, a department came up with a clear plan of action to offer support to any student bullied. I quote in part from the email I received (with permission)

We ran a local survey on bullying and harassment, which revealed the extent of the issue, particularly for PhD students. Importantly, we found that students were not reporting it, because they did not trust the [institution] in supporting them. We therefore set-up a local committee of “confidential advisers”, which received training to provide support and advice…

However, far from this being well-received by colleagues this person went on to spell out that when this and other related work was attempted to be further rolled out

I have been stopped from running a local survey on bullying and harassment; I have been stopped from sending a welcome letter to our ECRs, which mentioned (amongst a range of other resources) [this] support & advice scheme …, but has not been adopted by the other department I was sending the letter to (their HoD therefore censored that specific bit of information – was it to stop people requesting the same in their own department??)…

If heads of department try to suppress supportive efforts in their department, what does that say about them? Or their views of their juniors? Such behaviour should also be called out – but that is not easy to do. As the topics of bullying and harassment get more attention I fear we will see some people in such positions of power learning how to use the right words without directing either attention or resources to resolve the issues. No doubt some of these will still pat themselves on the back for their ability to spout the requisite phrases. It is vital that initiatives such as Athena Swan not only incorporate well thought-through action plans covering these topics, but that the institutional structures permit them to be carried out. There are many thoughtful and caring folk at the top of organisations, but bullying young women – yes this was another story I was told – into taking on the substantial workload of preparing the Athena Swan non-trivial paperwork will not be the work of people such as those.

Our university culture facilitates bullying because it is inherently competitive and too many people see it as a zero sum game: if you lose, I gain. It needn’t be so. The stories we heard during the course of the Meaning of Success project makes that very clear. Examples from Cambridge of women (all the interviews were with women; this isn’t meant to imply there aren’t men who do the same) who have manifestly succeeded while still treating their teams as humans include Ottoline Leyser and Jane Clarke (now President of Wolfson College), both of whose interviews are included in the book. There is no need to bully anyone to get to be an FRS! I feel that might be a useful mantra to pin on lab doors. There is no need to bully anyone to succeed on any front, yet some people seem unable to recognize that basic fact and think that the pressures of the REF, the TEF and (perhaps yet) the KEF require senior management to rule by intimidation and so on down the line, till the office cat gets kicked.

Over Twitter I see people mourning how much time and effort they feel obliged to put into contesting those who bully and demean others and yet we need these people more than ever. The more of us who mobilise, the more of us who publicly point out to those who bully that their behaviour is noticed, and the less institutions look the other way when such actions are drawn to their attention but offer support to victims and sanctions for the aggressors, the more productive everyone will be enabled to be. I hope that organisations and individuals grasp this nettle, but I am not sure I am optimistic that my hope will be realised.


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Resilience and the Nobel Prize

In case you’ve been asleep, this week has seen the number of scientific women winning Nobel prizes spike: two won this year. I don’t consider this simply as a moment of pure celebration for the cause of women in science, as I wrote elsewhere, pleasing though it may be. It means that the number of women winning in Physics has increased to the grand total of three, and in chemistry to five. Marie Curie features in both those totals. In Physiology or Medicine the number of women winners is the truly astonishing number of twelve. Across all the awards women represent just under 6%. On this rating, equality remains an elusive goal.

This year’s winner in Physics is the Canadian Donna Strickland, a woman whose Wikipedia entry had to be put out fast on Tuesday, when it turned out that the last attempt to get her a page had been rejected (just last May) because she wasn’t regarded as significant enough. Is this another example of the Matilda effect? This concept was introduced in 1993 by Margaret Rossiter who contrasted it with the more familiar Matthew effect (‘to him that hath shall be given’)stating, in the abstract to her paper

‘Recent work has brought to light so many cases, historical and contemporary, of women scientists who have been ignored, denied credit or otherwise dropped from sight that a sex-linked phenomenon seems to exist…’.

That Strickland, at 59, had not ever made it to the rank of full professor might look like her institution not honouring their own, although she confesses the fault is hers for never bothering to apply (and presumably no one thought to encourage her to do so: no mentors or sponsors).

However, her path to a Nobel may have been less uncomfortable than that of a former winner, the 1983 recipient in Physiology or Medicine Barbara McClintock. I’ve just been reading her biography, written by Evelyn Fox Keller just before the prize was announced (A Feeling for the Organism) all those years ago. I have my own memories of the prize, when my father told me that ‘only a woman’ could have had the patience to do what she did. (Goodness knows what he, an unsuccessful accountant, understood of what she did but I do know at the time how riled I was by the gendered remark. He did not live to see me become a professor!)

McClintock’s life seems to have been fairly extraordinary on many counts. Reading the Keller account it is striking what inner resources she must have had to cope with, not just academic insecurity, but insecurity arising from the fact that the universities in the 1930s really did not expect to hire women in research roles as faculty at all. Happy though she was at Cornell, she would not be a ‘lady scientist’, condemned to teach but not research, but insisted on

‘her right to be evaluated by the very same standards as her male colleagues’,

as Keller puts it. That might seem to be a reasonable thing to do, but oh no, it made her ‘problematic’ to her male colleagues who saw her as ‘having a chip on her shoulder’ and with ‘personality difficulties’. How far do readers think we have moved on? Modern female scientists (please not ‘lady scientists’ now as then), neither want favours accorded to them as women, nor to be suffering under the weight of the Matilda effect or any other bias, conscious or otherwise. With Cornell not willing to offer her a faculty position McClintock moved to Missouri as an Assistant Professor but left when she believed they would not grant her tenure, ultimately spending many years at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where she was the only person to be working on maize genetics.

McClintock managed to gain the respect of her colleagues, becoming just the third woman to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1944, but her best work – and most testing times – were still to come. Over many years, by analysing the pattern of pigmentation in maize ears, she was able to ‘see’ how genes were being switched on and off, and what factors controlled this. From this she came up with the idea of transposition just at the time molecular biology and the ‘central dogma’ was taking hold. Her ideas about the ability of elements to move around were simply not comprehensible, let alone accepted by her peers during the 1950s, who were focussing on prokaryotes rather than the eukaryotic maize; these seemed simpler to understand but of course had their limitations for genetic study.

For years she seems to have stopped publishing – but not stopped researching – and worked in isolation with few supporters. Of course, we would not really appreciate all this if ultimately she had not triumphed, with her ideas becoming mainstream culminating in the Nobel Prize. Reading the biography, though, I kept thinking how did she keep going? Resilience is much talked about now and she had the advantage of already being accepted at one level. But that did not stop dismissive comments such as

‘just an old bag who’d been hanging around Cold Spring Harbor for years’

being tossed in her direction. It is hard, as anyone who has had to do it knows, to battle on in the face of negativity and lack of support. Having once been a respected scientist may make it easier in one sense, but the hurt will still be there. Yet she kept going until the field, as it were, caught up with her and was capable of understanding what it was she’d been trying to say for all those years.

Because the book was finished before it was known McClintock had won the Nobel, how she reacted to finally proving her detractors wrong is not discussed. Given the way she comes across throughout the book, I suspect consideration of that would not have been uppermost in her mind. What mattered to her was the science. Understanding what was going on using old-fashioned techniques was her passion; techniques that allowed her intuition, experience and understanding to flourish as she pieced together the jigsaw that ear after ear of maize revealed. Her (interim) tragedy was that she could not convey to her colleagues the intricacies of the inner workings of the genes that her deep knowledge gave her, developed from countless well-thought through experiments.

Resilience, determination, insight, patience, critical thought….the list of attributes a successful scientist requires to change a field, to introduce a paradigm shift, as McClintock did, is long. It does not include the word lady, woman or female. One hallmark in reaching equality in science will be when the newspapers do not have a field day around the gender of prize winners because it just isn’t interesting. There are good male scientists; there are good female scientists. It is only the adjective ‘good’ that matters.


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