Latest posts

Marooned on the Island

Not a desert island, mind you. Oh no – this “island” is a thin strip of land between pit lane and the front straight, the province of a select few photographers who absolutely need to take photographs of cars in front of key Toronto landmarks – the Princes’ Gate and the CN Tower – and of pit stops with grandstand Continue reading

Posted in bloody weather, Hobbies, Honda Indy Toronto, Photography, racing, rain | Comments Off

That’s the way science works

There have been a lot of articles published in newspapers around the world discussing a recent PLoS ONE paper published on July 23 by Harris and Provoust entitled “Jealousy in Dogs.”

Ginger, in a reflective, non-jealous mode

For those who may not have seen the paper or the flurry of newspaper articles about the paper and its findings, I will Continue reading

Posted in animal behavior, behavior, canine, dog, dog sense, dogs, impact, jealousy, PLOS ONE, Research, science, Scientific method | Comments Off

Parental Leave and Sexism

Parental Leave and Sexism

There’s been a bit of a twitterstorm about the story of a ‘techie mom’ who overheard a conversation between two presumed IBM executives on the subject of hiring women. Their view was, don’t do it: they have the temerity to take time off to have children. Written up in a more detail as a blog, the co Continue reading

Posted in Equality, maternityleave, misogyny, paternity leave, techie, Women in science | Comments Off

Disturbing the natural order – the case of neonicotinoid insecticides and farmland birds

Apus apus 01.jpg

A swift


One of my favourite nature writers is Mark Cocker who has the ability to capture a scene or an idea in a few hundred words. Despite his immense knowledge he never loses his sense of awe and with clever use of metaphor, his descriptions of nature leap in to life.

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Posted in bees, birds, center for food safety, conservation, farmland birds, George Monbiot, Guest posts, imidacloprid, insectivorous birds, Kenneth Allsop, mark cocker, neonicotinoids, netherlands, radboud university, swift, yellow wagtail | Comments Off

Advice on presentations: I’m not as clever as you think

I spent the last two days in Leicester at Translation UK, a two-day conference that is an annual gathering for scientists working on all aspects of translation — the protein synthesis kind. The conference is friendly and informal. It is kept short so that it is cheap enough for labs to send postdocs and PhD students who dominate the roster of speak Continue reading

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In which I heart academia

Say what you will against life in the upper echelons of higher education. By all means complain about the low pay, the long hours, and the increasingly desperate funding situation. Above all, rail against the crushing career insecurity, and the sad truth that no matter how far up the ladder you are, there is only an ephemeral membrane between you a Continue reading

Posted in The profession of science | Comments Off

She blinded me with science

Jenny is putting the finishing touches to a revised manuscript. I’m reading about a very interesting paper in my old field—and telling her about it.

Joshua is doomed, isn’t he?

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Posted in Don't try this at home, science | Comments Off


…or ‘Congratulations’ in English. Up and down the country this is the time of year for graduation ceremonies. Proud parents, wider family and friends go along to watch their loved ones briefly smile and shake the (Vice)Chancellor’s hand, or something along those lines – such as being doffed with a hat made from John Knox’s b Continue reading

Posted in graduation, Photography, Science Culture, Swansea University | Comments Off

Cultural and academic boycotts: why the BDS movement is an embarrassment and a failure

Recently, Pink Floyd founder and (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) BDS supporter Roger Waters publicly called on musician Neil Young not to perform in Tel Aviv, Israel. In his letter to Young, Waters wrote:

That you would lend support to, and encourage and legitimize, with your             presence, a colonial apartheid regime, largely settled fr Continue reading

Posted in academic boycott, anti-semitism, BDS, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Jews, none is too many, Palestinians, Roger Waters, the Guardian, The New York Times | Comments Off

Shuffling Forward in Education

This week has been full of surprises in Whitehall. The departure of David Willetts was foreseen. Indeed, it has been predicted just about every time there has been a ministerial reshuffle in the recent past. He will be missed by many who thought he ‘got’ science – and other parts of the university sector too (although perhaps not the fi Continue reading

Posted in education, michael gove, ministers, Nick Gibb, reshuffle, Royal Society, Vision for STEM education | Comments Off

In which everyday sexism depresses me

Today, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, reshuffled his Cabinet in preparation for next year’s General Election. There was a lot of speculation that he would up the number of women in his inner circle, as he’s previously promised, and this is exactly what he did.

The media, desperate to stir up controversy wheneve Continue reading

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Scientists: the same old villains and nerds

Villains and nerds – that’s what scientists are, if you believe the media. At least the “big screen.” Finding myself in a state of near exhaustion this past month, I’ve taken the opportunity to watch a few films on ‘Netflix.’ Two very different films seem to further cement the public’s perception of w Continue reading

Posted in films, geeks, lab lit, media, movies, nerds, public awareness, Research, science, scientists, villains | Comments Off

Holiday Questions in Natural History

Last week I escaped to the Shropshire hills and blissfully allowed my brain to stop turning over matters concerning committee-work, exams, grants and other responsibilities past, present and future. Instead I have been exercising my limbs up and down the slopes of the Long Mynd and surrounding countryside and refreshing myself in local hostelries, Continue reading

Posted in book review, neonicotinoids, ornithology, red kite, red kites, Science Culture | Comments Off

Australia Tour 2014

It’s funny how one thing leads to another. The video of my Friday Evening Discourse at the Royal Institution last year caught the attention of a former colleague and produced an invitation to contribute a lecture to her plans to celebrate the International Year of Crystallography at the University of Western Australia in Perth this summer.

And then Continue reading

Posted in Australia, Protein Crystallography, science, travel, X-rays | Comments Off

Metrics, Fulfilment and Career Trajectories

“More effort should be done on understanding people paths. We are too much focused on processes and structures.” JP Bourguignon #esof2014

I was struck by this quote I saw on Twitter from the ERC President Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, because of course we don’t do this at all well. Too often at a departmental level we look at people al Continue reading

Posted in academia, careers, CV, DORA, impact factor | Comments Off