Latest posts

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

My rights are bigger than your rights

or why corporations are now individuals

This past Monday, the US Supreme Court made a decision on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.. Continue reading

Posted in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Hobby Lobby, Inc., US Supreme Court | Comments Off

Moving on from Tokenism

Last week much was made of the fact that, finally, all the UK’s FTSE100 companies have at least one female Board member with Glencore, the last to make the grade, appointing the Canadian Patrice Merrin as a non-executive director. Vince Cable, who has been pushing for this for some years, declared this a ‘historic day for the FTSE’ Continue reading

Posted in Equality, EU Gender Summit, FTSE100, Gendered Innovations, Women in science | Comments Off

A breath of fresh (scientific) air

As I sat yesterday in a student career development workshop, and listened to the fears and anxieties surrounding the prospects of a career in academia – or in any scientific field, for that matter – I felt a million miles away from the outstanding Gordon Research Conference (GRC) from which I had just returned.

Northern railway trail, Andover, New Hampshire

On the Northern Railway Continue reading

Posted in Andover, basic science, career development, Gordon Research Conference, GRC, lab, New Hampshire, postdocs, Proctor, professors, Research, science, students | Comments Off

Well-rounded Students – What does it Take?

WS Gilbert thought it was ‘comical…that every boy and every gal… is either a little Liberal or else a little Conservative’ in the words expressed by that bored sentry PC Willis. The politics would be different now, but we in England and Wales still seem to live in a system where every boy or girl, at least those who aspire to A levels a Continue reading

Posted in A levels, British Academy, education, International Baccalaureate, Royal Society, Tessa Blackstone, Vision report | Comments Off

The Flying Squad*

An imposing, white-painted beehive stood in the middle of the room. Emblazoned across the front in large black letters was one word – POLICE.

The police keep bees?

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Posted in agri environment schemes, bee hive, bees, flower rich hay meadows, Flying Squad, Guest posts, higher level stewardship, honeybees, Margaret Couvillon, nature reserves, pollinators, Thomas Thwaites, waggle dance | Comments Off