Latest posts

The Importance of Finding Nothing Out

‘Melts in the mouth, not in the hand’: so said a chocolate advertisement from my youth for the predecessor of Minstrels (a discontinued brand called Treets). Melting temperature is of course an important consideration when it comes to the elegance of stuffing your mouth full of chocolate, and chocolate-making is a science as well as an artisanal ar Continue reading

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Inching Forward

This week Cambridge University held its annual Diversity event, hosted by the Vice Chancellor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, always known as Borys. He has been an outstanding leader on this, as on so many fronts, but he is retiring as VC at the end of the academic year. Even at his initial interview he made it plain how close this particular topic was to Continue reading

Posted in double standards, Equality, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, The Meaning of Success, University of Cambridge, Women in science | Comments Off on Inching Forward

Visiting the Roots of the Industrial Revolution

I managed to sneak in a few days break in Derbyshire between two major College activities. It was good to escape to a less flat landscape than Cambridgeshire can manage and stretch my muscles up the steep hills that the small town of Wirksworth offers. Sitting at the south end of the Peak District just outside the National Park, it has a most unusu Continue reading

Posted in History of Science, quarries, Richard Arkwright, Wirksworth | Comments Off on Visiting the Roots of the Industrial Revolution

BAMEed: the voices of the people

At the beginning of June I attended the first BAMEed conference. It was an unexpectedly memorable and inspiring occasion.

BAMEed Conference 2017
Final panel discussion at #BAMEed2017

Though billed as an “unconference” – the sort of self-disorganising gathering popular among millennials of which old fogies like me have a horror – the one-day meeting had in fact been meti Continue reading

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Eternal Questions

My first tentative toe-dip into the Blogosphere turned out to be less scary than I imagined: No abusive messages or trolls, a little bit of enthusiasm via Twitter, email and the “Responses” section on the blog, and even an encouraging “Pingback” (thank you Hortense), which was certainly a new concept to me. Perhaps the most Continue reading

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In which I hire

A colleague I respect very highly once likened academic careers to a rocket launch: once you hit escape velocity, you’re safely in orbit. Problem is, achieving this state as a post-doc or untenured faculty is becoming increasingly difficult. Hundreds of eminently qualified people can apply for a prestigious fellowship, and the difference betw Continue reading

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The Challenge of Taking Time Out

I have been marking exams. However much students may and do hate taking the exams themselves, marking is also a very stressful period for those of us who have to do it. We wish to do it with the utmost rigour, yet the sheer number of scripts piled up on the desk makes that a formidable challenge. This year, for reasons beyond my control and that ar Continue reading

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The Chinese Hoax that affects the globe

storm10

Something wicked this way comes (R. Bradbury)

Our Dear Leader took to Twitter, his favorite media form, some years ago (and one would presume that it is his favorite because reading or writing more than 140 characters may be beyond his ability to concentrate), and said the following:

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Continue reading

Posted in climate change, hail, lightning, Nebraska, president, rain, science, severe weather, thunder, Trump, weather | Comments Off on The Chinese Hoax that affects the globe

The Patronising Colleague

Patronising and mansplaining are both irredeemably etymologically male. I cannot think of female equivalents. That isn’t to say that women can never be patronising or indulge in mansplaining, but I suspect the frequency with which they go in for such activities is rather less than for men. For many women, being patronised is an ever present annoyan Continue reading

Posted in frustration, mansplaining, Science Culture, sponsorship, Women in science | Comments Off on The Patronising Colleague

The Patronising Colleague

Patronising and mansplaining are both irredeemably etymologically male. I cannot think of female equivalents. That isn’t to say that women can never be patronising or indulge in mansplaining, but I suspect the frequency with which they go in for such activities is rather less than for men. For many women, being patronised is an ever present annoyan Continue reading

Posted in frustration, mansplaining, Science Culture, sponsorship, Women in science | Comments Off on The Patronising Colleague

The Materials Scientist in 2030, Who is She?

Whenever I ask one of my Physics Department colleagues what it means to be a Physicist, while she might not be able to give me a straightforward answer, she usually has a very clear picture in her head of who she is professionally and why. Likewise, Chemists and Biologists, or Mechanical and Civil Engineers, rarely have issues with their sense of i Continue reading

Posted in education, Materials Science | Comments Off on The Materials Scientist in 2030, Who is She?

Get a Life

I should have known better. At the Hay Festival last week, as my last post alluded to, I mentioned the gendering of toys. This point was one of many I tried to put across during my talk on why the cultural stereotypes we impose essentially from birth on our children, boys and girls alike, is not likely to lead to the best outcomes for individuals o Continue reading

Posted in Communicating Science, Hay Festival, lego, Let Toys be Toys, Women in science | Comments Off on Get a Life

Blog June

Apparently BlogJune is a thing. I’d not heard of it before – it’s a challenge to

blog every day in June – or as often as you can manage, or comment on someone else’s blog every day

The first part (‘every day’) really would be a challenge, but the qualification (‘or as often as you can’) sounds a Continue reading

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Even a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut—or does he?!

The new Emperor, Dear Leader, or as he is known in this country, President of the United States of America, is on the verge of proving that even age-old sayings are no longer sacrosanct. Since inauguration in January, we have collectively witnessed an elected official to the highest office who has bungled everything that he has touched. He has lied Continue reading

Posted in climate change, Paris accord, Research, science | Comments Off on Even a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut—or does he?!

Masquerading Amongst the Literati

Things did not get off to a good start as I travelled to Hay-on-Wye this week. I arrived at Hereford railway station to be greeted by – nothing. No sign of the car meant to be picking me up to take me to Hay, only another woman looking equally anxious. A few minutes later the driver emerged from behind us in the station. Both us women had failed th Continue reading

Posted in audiences, Communicating Science, Equality, gender, Hay Festival, lego, Women in science | Comments Off on Masquerading Amongst the Literati