Latest posts

Borrowing an Objective

Maybe it’s because I’m relaxed as it’s the Easter break, but when I received an email with ‘Borrowing an Objective‘ as its subject this week, my mind went into overdrive. I assumed someone was short of a goal, an aspiration or a target hypothesis for their grant – or even for their departmental mission statement. Much Continue reading

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In which the forest emerges

The clocks have gone forward, the crocuses wither, the tulips unfurl. The students have dispersed for Easter, full of dread about the immunology exam that will pounce on their return.


Budding life forms

I put one grant application to bed and work on two others. Continue reading

Posted in careers, Gardening, Scientific thinking, staring into the abyss, students, Teaching, The profession of science | Comments Off on In which the forest emerges

In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye

It’s the last trumpet.

It’s been an intense few months up on the Ridgeway; preparations for our big change have gathered pace. At first things went slowly – infuriatingly slowly –  but as the years crept on so we felt the pressure develop. It’s like the feeling of being in a crowd of people surging forward, slowly acce Continue reading

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Is there a Point in Travel?

As my last post makes clear, I have been busy travelling recently. My trip encompassed visits to both New York and Boston, cities which in years past I have visited quite frequently. Boston is delightfully non-American: its streets are not on a grid but resemble a British city much more than any other US city I have ever visited. It has had a hard Continue reading

Posted in airmiles, Boston, conferences, Hilda Geiringer, Science Culture, Women in science | Comments Off on Is there a Point in Travel?

Open letter to the Publishers Association: please amend your open access decision tree

Dear Publishers Association

I ask that you amend the open access decision tree you created for incorporation into the guidance notes accompanying the Open Access (OA) policy announced by Research Councils UK (RCUK) in 2013. It may seem odd to ask for a correction so late in the day but my reasons for doing so are two-fold.

First, the Publishers Ass Continue reading

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In which Charles Fernyhough comes to Fiction Lab

One of the great things about being the LabLit Guru™ is that I am constantly receiving interesting books to look over.

Stack o' Books
A stack of lab lit, yesterday – plus an intriguing hanger-on there at the bottom

One of the not-so-great things is that (A) I am always desperately behind on my reading, and (B) it doesn’t leave me time to read a Continue reading

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Reminiscing On my Travels

I am often asked, what do College Masters do? Some people seem to think it is similar to being Warden of a Hall of Residence (i.e. sorting out broken light bulbs or disputes between neighbouring students), but it isn’t like that at all. As one of my fellow female Masters told me, it is a case of ‘setting a tone’, but even that sou Continue reading

Posted in alumni, Boston, Churchill College, Communicating Science, New York, Women in science | Comments Off on Reminiscing On my Travels

In which life imitates science – number 264

A scientist is never off-duty, even in a fabulous Michelin-starred restaurant on Charlotte Street.

Spindle organization was never this tasty

Spindle organization was never this tasty

I think pretty much anyone with a cell biology background would have seen what I saw in this rhubarb confection:

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Words and Images

As my last post said, I have been sitting on a lot of committees recently and consequently reading a lot of references. I am pleased to observe that it has been the men round the table who have been complaining about the gendered tone of some of these letters, picking up both when a referee envisages a job in a very masculine way and so complains i Continue reading

Posted in Alice Lee, Equality, GillianGehring, Hertha Ayrton, letters of reference, Women in science | Comments Off on Words and Images

In which the postdoc sell-by date continues to shrivel: The MRC comes to its senses

How do you judge the worth of a researcher? In particular, can you tell how excellent she is by how quickly she gets from point A to point B in her career?

Old postdocs may not be as stale as they look

Old postdocs may not be as stale as they look

The funding bodies used to think speed was of the essence. Continue reading

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10 Things to Make You a Better Committee Member

I seem to have been sitting through a lot of committee meetings recently, of diverse kinds. Every committee meeting has its own dynamic – a grant-awarding meeting is very different in form from that of some sort of a departmental strategy group; a programme committee for a conference will differ from a student-liaison body. Nevertheless there Continue reading

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Sweet Serendipitous Science

One of the best arguments for supporting basic science is that serendipitous discoveries — those not necessarily outlined in a grant proposal — have always been key to scientific progress. Many of us who lobby for basic science like to use the wonderful example of penicillin, whose discovery was attributed to Alexander Fleming, who noti Continue reading

Posted in allulose, Andrew Han, basic science, fructose, Izumori, Newsweek, penicillin, Research, science, sugars | Comments Off on Sweet Serendipitous Science

Choosing the Right Criteria

A year ago Cambridge University launched its book ‘The Meaning of Success’ and published a letter calling on the HE community to consider what the sector values and should be promoting, figuratively and, when it comes to people, literally. This dialogue I hope has been continuing during the year in universities around the country. In Ca Continue reading

Posted in career progression, Equality, International Woman's Day, Meaning of Success, mobility, promotion, Women in science | Comments Off on Choosing the Right Criteria

Psychology Journal Bans Almost All of Statistics

Amongst the big news last week (besides the octopus-squid battle, a dress, and a singer falling over whilst – presumably – sober) was the release of an editorial from the journal “Basic and Applied Social Psychology” (BASP) which announced that it was banning p-values. There was much rejoicing by people who didn’t read Continue reading

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Being mortal and being Crick

Two more book reviews from my reading list for this year.

On several occasions while reading Being Mortal, surgeon Atul Gawande’s book about end-of-life care, I could feel a lump swelling in my throat and tears pressing for release. I’m not an emotional type but this is an intense book.

Continue reading
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