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Strategic Developments at UKRI

The new super-research council (in UK terms) UKRI that acts as an umbrella organisation – sitting above the seven research councils plus Innovate UK and Research England – launched its Strategic Prospectus a few days ago. Not so much a strategy, more an attempt to set out the steps needed to be taken and the areas to be focussed on as the new organisation attempts to formulate its actual strategy Continue reading

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In which a new Doctor is born

No, not that Doctor. (Besides, I’m not sure any graduate student would care to regenerate and repeat the experience for all eternity!)

My first PhD candidate, Harry Horsley, recently had his viva. Here he is, about an hour before the event:

Smiles in the face of impending Doom

Continue reading
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How might the Athena Swan Process Emerge?

When groups of (comparative) strangers sit around a table, it is impossible to predict what will emerge in the way of new ideas. Readers of this blog will not be surprised to know that I think diversity – of background, skin colour, discipline and gender – may all lead to better decisions than a monoculture is liable to produce, but that list should probably also be extended (in academic circles a Continue reading

Posted in AdvanceHE, Athena Forum, diversity, Equality, letters of reference, Women in science | Comments Off on How might the Athena Swan Process Emerge?

Once upon a time there was respect for scientists…

Some families sit together and watch sitcoms, entertainment, or sports. Not my family; we are the classic science geeks. Two parents who both are researchers with a lab to run, one adult child who is a sophomore microbiology/biochemistry student at university, and a high schooler with a love for all things math and physics and an interest, potentially, in medicine. What do we watch? Recently we be Continue reading

Posted in Charité, education, Erich, Koch, Professor, Research, science, von Behring | Comments Off on Once upon a time there was respect for scientists…

Book reviews – Knowledge Translation edition

I realised recently that the “everything I used to blog about is now on Twitter or Goodreads instead” trend of recent years means that I never got around to mentioning my new job!

After ten years of grant writing and project management at the BC Cancer Agency, I moved to a new role at UBC and BC Children’s Hospital in November as a Knowledge Translation Specialist, focusing on epigenetics. ( Continue reading

Posted in blog buddies, book review, career, communication, cycling, Knowledge translation | Comments Off on Book reviews – Knowledge Translation edition

The best experiment

It has been a long winter, but spring is finally here. It’s a beautiful day, starting from breakfast on the deck, watching the birds over the lake.


And it’s time for someone who hasn’t done an experiment in a dozen years (at least with his own hands) to pick up–not a pipette–a garden trowel.

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In which science imitates life, number 365: zones of death in public transport

I was waiting for the bus this past weekend, ridiculously early to get my son to his swimming lesson across town. Or so I thought.

We waited, and waited, and Joshua jumped up and down anxiously, looking adorable with his lobster rucksack bouncing on his back, asking over and over, “Mama, why isn’t the bus coming?”

Quite. Continue reading

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Pineapple Head

A little while ago I managed not only to photograph the Google StreetView car somewhere in Fitzrovia, but also to capture the picture it took of me doing it.

Earlier today I was on my way to Halfords and find myself peering at a more advanced model, in reverse gear at a traffic light.

It might be time to re-offer that drink to the first person to spot me tailing MK14 NWT. Continue reading

Posted in Don't try this at home, Google, Silliness, StreetView | Comments Off on Pineapple Head

The Meeting of the Ways

There are many reasons why people believe – as I do – that interdisciplinarity has to sit at the heart of any research agenda. It does not require that two disciplines bring cutting edge tools and ideas together to create something that is yet more cutting edge. In my experience it rarely works like that. It can sometimes mean that techniques familiar and routine in one field freshly a Continue reading

Posted in Bennett Institute for Public Policy, Eldar Shafir, Equality, Interdisciplinary Science, Policy, stereotype threat, values affirmation | Comments Off on The Meeting of the Ways

Will Biography be a Lost Art?

As a young postdoc I arrived, fairly literally penniless in the USA in October 1977. I had flown with the forerunner of today’s low-cost airlines, Freddie Laker, on his new invention of ‘standby’ fares. You turned up on the day and took the chance of there being a spare seat. So it was that, very early in the morning I went to somewhere near Victoria Station and paid, if my memory serves me right Continue reading

Posted in Communicating Science, email, letters, Maggie Thatcher, New York, Science Culture, Winston Churchill | Comments Off on Will Biography be a Lost Art?

Are Women Underpaid?

The deadline is past for companies in the UK employing more than 250 employees to report their gender pay gap. The numbers are not pretty and the University sector is no different from other types of employers in manifesting an average or median hourly difference of around 20%.  (Wonkhe have published the data for universities, and there is also an account of all the Oxford Colleges data here, alt Continue reading

Posted in equal pay, Equality, gender pay gap, Unconscious bias, Women in science | Comments Off on Are Women Underpaid?

A complete curriculum outline. Almost.

Having left you in suspense last month, I can now report that we have chosen the modernization option for our new curriculum! Materials Science at the ETH will no longer be taught according to the old materials categories but rather in grand, over-arching themes, (hopefully) revealing deep connections between materials and concepts, facilitating student learning and equipping the next generation o Continue reading

Posted in education, Materials Science | Comments Off on A complete curriculum outline. Almost.

Guilty of Rambling On

As a PhD student it is an exciting moment when you know you’re off to your first international conference. Whether or not you get to present (either orally or via a poster), there is still a thrill in just being part of the larger scientific family. I can still remember the stand-out paper from the very first conference I ever attended – the Electron Microscopy and Analysis’ Group of the Institute Continue reading

Posted in Andrew Keller, conferences, Research, Science Culture, speakers | Comments Off on Guilty of Rambling On

The Potholes in Life

As regular readers of this blog will know, I rely on my bike to get me around to the myriad committee meetings I need to attend across Cambridge. It is my lifeline to get me speedily to the railway station (often, I suspect, faster than car or bus during peak rush hour) where the (relatively) new bike park at the station – increasingly filling up though it is – is a huge improvement. Our previous Continue reading

Posted in alpha male, bicycle, obstacles, opportunities, Science Culture | Comments Off on The Potholes in Life

On quotas in Academia – do we need them?


As a graduate student I was asked to participate in a `women in science’ group. I refused. I was an old(er) grad student compared to my cohort, my goal was to get in and get out as fast as practically possible, so that I could be gainfully employed. I’d spent years working very low-paying jobs and I was over it, anything optional that was going to delay me from finishing my PhD qui Continue reading

Posted in bias, Unconscious bias, Women in science | Comments Off on On quotas in Academia – do we need them?