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In which I see through other eyes

A few months ago I had a Twitter encounter with an American far-right Trump supporter.

Unbeknownst to me, this man had been lurking and – as incongruous as it sounds – apparently enjoying my Twitter feed (which is largely, these days, random stuff about science, literature and women in science, sprinkled with occasional absurdity). That is, until I made a rare snide remark about A Continue reading

Posted in Politics, staring into the abyss | Comments Off on In which I see through other eyes

Creativity Mustn’t be Allowed to be Hijacked


 ‘In 2019, the “two cultures” described by CP Snow in 1959 will have finally ceased to have meaning.’

So said Russell Foster in a recent article in Wired. Russell is clearly an optimist and I fear I do not share his optimism, despite all the evidence he adduces in his piece. The examples he cites – including statistics about visitors to the Science Museum – unfortunately only refer t Continue reading

Posted in CP Snow, Russell Foster, science communication, Science Culture | Comments Off on Creativity Mustn’t be Allowed to be Hijacked

Facing up to the Existence of the Jerk


As stories of harassment and bullying multiply in the media (social and otherwise), it is worth thinking about what it is in management and leadership that lets situations get out of hand. Too often I hear the phrase that someone is ‘on the spectrum’ provided as a rationale for why they aren’t too good at interpersonal relationships within a lab or team. I find the phrase objectionable Continue reading

Posted in academia, bullying, gagging orders, leadership, speaking up | Comments Off on Facing up to the Existence of the Jerk

The New Awkward

Ah you see, this vulnerability-plus-authenticity-thing, it’s a new skill I learned recently. It’s only awkward if you make it so*.

I LOVE the vulnerability + authenticity thing! I'm for making anything that isn't this, the new awkward. WhatsApp. It’s like Twitter, but better curated.

Blogging lends itself to the meta.

Over the years, when I have been battered, bruised and even left bleeding from online exchanges, I think back to my abrupt and unintentional induction into science communication; to my first forays into blogging. Continue reading

Posted in Awkward, Life, Meta, New | Comments Off on The New Awkward

Alice’s Restaurant Massacree

I fell a bit behind with the shopping lists, which is a shame because I really wanted to show you this one before Christmas.

It’s a full-blown pre-Christmas shop. Right at the top we’ve got mistletoe and greenery—both queried though: maybe she (definitely a ‘she’) wasn’t sure if Waitrose would have them, or maybe there was already another trip planned.

There’s an interesting mix of prec Continue reading

Posted in Christmas, Shopping lists, turkey | Comments Off on Alice’s Restaurant Massacree

Pyramid Schemes and the Book Cover Challenge


As a child I occasionally got sucked into a strange pyramid form of exchanging postcards, an old-fashioned form of chain mail (but not of the metal variety). The details escape me but the basic idea was that you contacted half a dozen of your friends to encourage them to continue the chain and sent a picture postcard to the person whose name had reached the top of the list you yourself receiv Continue reading

Posted in Jane Austen, JE Gordon, Materials Science, Richard Jones | Comments Off on Pyramid Schemes and the Book Cover Challenge

Twelve days of Christmas

So that was Christmas. And what I did was a little project that you might have missed: a photo for every day of Christmas, from the first to the twelfth. No commentary or explanation, just the photo, and the day as a title. Continue reading

Posted in Christmas, Instagram, personal, Photography | Comments Off on Twelve days of Christmas

In which the unsaid gathers

It’s a new year, and the cursor blinks at me accusingly. It knows I have not written here for some time, and perhaps it wonders why, given that thoughts and feelings are gathering restlessly in my brain and need to get out.

After a marathon blitz of unsociable and family-unfriendly grant writing over the holidays, I finally have a few hours of solitude I can spend, like a pocketful of the Continue reading

Posted in Gardening, staring into the abyss, The ageing process, The profession of science | Comments Off on In which the unsaid gathers

Reinventing the Wheel

CRISPR /Cas9 gene-editing: staying on top of technology is a full-time job for researchers

New Year’s Eve has always been more of a time for reflection for me, rather than a time for partying. Perhaps this stems from growing up in a Canadian climate where late December and early January (or more accurately, October through April) and the accompanying bone-chilling cold and darkness were more l Continue reading

Posted in CRISPR/Cas9, principal investigator, Research, science, technology | Comments Off on Reinventing the Wheel

Endings and Beginnings

New Year’s Eve is almost upon us, so here we are again at the close of one long year and the start of another. Personally, it has been a year of endings and beginnings. Readers of this blog would be forgiven for thinking that it is one of the things that I have wound down in 2018, but in fact I am hoping to stir it to new life.

https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4909/44343935960_82f2a119b7_z.jpgSunrise or sunset? Black Sea coast near Sozopol. Continue reading

Posted in Blogging, Scientific Life | Comments Off on Endings and Beginnings

There are worse things I could do


Hastily snapped this, as we went into the shop. But to be clear, the mystery shopper wanted the same number of fillets as en croute. Perhaps they were having coeliacs around?

An engineer’s or a computer programmer’s brain behind this list, I fancy. Or perhaps ex-military. Continue reading

Posted in accents, plastic, salmon, Shopping lists, water | Comments Off on There are worse things I could do

A Bad Week to be in Brussels

Historians of the future will no doubt make much of the UK’s political ramifications of the moment. This week has seen a particularly strange spectacle as the Tory party tears itself apart and the Labour party seems unable to sort itself out and step into the breach of political leadership. I happened to be in Brussels during the excitement of the no-confidence vote against Theresa May. That was n Continue reading

Posted in Brexit, ERC, ERC Scientific Council, Science Funding | Comments Off on A Bad Week to be in Brussels

Diversithon – some recipes

Recipe 1

It’s a simple recipe. Gather together some people who want to change the world. Put some inspirational speakers in front of them to get people fired up about diversity in science. Provide cakes and biscuits. Teach some basic skills in editing and writing for Wikipedia, then set them loose on a list of scientists who deserve, but don’t yet have, biographical articles in Wikipedia. Continue reading

Posted in Communicating Science, wikipedia | Comments Off on Diversithon – some recipes

Loading the Women – or Not?

The question of what should the composition of any team ‘look’ like remains one I feel uncertain about. Whereas a list of a dozen invited speakers who are all males smacks of bias or incompetence rather than a true reflection of those whose work is outstanding, if a senior executive team is small enough, say 4, but is all male can one say the same thing? There was the year my College was run by a Continue reading

Posted in gender balance, manels, Science Culture, Stephen Curry, Women in science | Comments Off on Loading the Women – or Not?

Being Resilient

Have a setback, bounce back. That is what all the self-help books would proclaim loud and clear. It applies as much in science as anywhere else, perhaps more so since the setback need not be in one’s career or personal dealings with others as in the experiments that go wrong again and again and again. It is, you may think, easy for the self-help books to trumpet such resilience but who really mana Continue reading

Posted in Breakthrough Prize, Impostor syndrome, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Science Culture, Women in science | Comments Off on Being Resilient