Latest posts

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

Posted in committee work, paperwork, preparation, Science Culture | Comments Off

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

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

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

Posted in science publishing, statistics | Comments Off

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.

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Posted in book review, death, Life | Comments Off

Why Can’t a Woman be more like a Man?

Last autumn there were some shocking figures released by the Royal Society regarding the new cohort of University Research Fellows (URFs): only two out of 43 were women. Many of us were very disappointed and depressed by these figures. I wrote about them at the time , as did the Royal Society’s President Paul Nurse on his own blog. But I̵ Continue reading

Posted in Equality, Paul Nurse, Royal Society, University Research Fellows, Women in science | Comments Off

On immortality

From the “Making dreams come true” department, we recently had a sauna installed at the new gaff.

Warming up
Warming up

It’s very nice, and you should know that South Eastern trains have a special, hidden, weekend fare that lets you use the High Speed service for the same price as the slow train, and that I can pick you up from the station.

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Posted in immortality, Me, Nonsense, sauna | Comments Off

Contemplating Education Matters

This past week it was announced that I would be assuming the Presidency of the British Science Association (the BSA, formerly simply the British Association or the BA). It is a great honour to be asked to follow in the footsteps of so many of the most illustrious scientists of the last 170 odd years. The list of previous incumbents is truly humblin Continue reading

Posted in British Science Association, DCMS, education, Vision for STEM education | Comments Off

Music and Disease

When one is the parent of a small child it is well-known one catches every bug going, as their own uninitiated immune systems succumb to one cold after another which they can transmit, often with more serious diseases mixed in. In my case it was chickenpox that got me unexpectedly in my 30’s during a Cambridge epidemic, having escaped it thro Continue reading

Posted in academia, Camden School for Girls, LSSO, Micaela Comberti, viola | Comments Off

In which I invite them in

Although engaging with the public about science is famously not about – heaven forbid – ‘teaching’ it, the two endeavors do share some common strategies. I’ve been organizing and executing a lot of undergraduate educational sessions these past few terms, and I can report that the humble analogy is equally effective in Continue reading

Posted in Science talking, Scientific thinking, Silliness, students, Teaching | Comments Off

Did someone say “cold”?

With whatever the current digital version of “mercury” is dipping to an overnight low of 25 below*, and an expected daytime high tomorrow of only two degrees higher, I for one am not planning on venturing outside unless I absolutely have to. Even though tomorrow is Family Day, a holiday of dubious provenance that I’ve lightly comp Continue reading

Posted in backyard, bird, hawk, nature, Photography, wildlife, winter | Comments Off

The biologist who left me out in the cold

Two weeks, two books.

In Unweaving the Rainbow Richard Dawkins takes issue with the poets and argues that the poetry revealed deep within Nature by scientific investigation is more wondrous than the musings of those who make do with superficial appearances. I picked it up because I am in the midst of writing a review of recent developments in struc Continue reading

Posted in book review, Dawkins, le Carré | Comments Off

I Wish I’d Known Then What I Know Now

There are many questions which are easily posed, to which I don’t find answers come easily. One of these is ‘who inspired you?’ (answer: no one very obviously); or ‘why did you decide you wanted to study physics?‘ to which the feeble answer that I liked it doesn’t seem nearly meaty enough. But there are other que Continue reading

Posted in Science Culture, self-confidence, skills | Comments Off

Cheating in science — and life

Not too long ago, one of my teenagers brought up an age-old ethical issue that recurs and festers, and at least theoretically, provides an opportunity for open discussion on “what do we want out of life?”

The issue at stake, is of course, cheating at school, university and life. And how do honest kids and adults deal with it, knowing th Continue reading

Posted in A grade, cheating, Chronicle of Higher Education, education, exams, getting ahead, medical schoolmath, Research, science, undergraduate education | Comments Off

This week – reading, thinking and linking

This past week I have been doing so much reading and writing for work that there has been no time to prepare anything substantial enough for a proper blog post, even if I have been stirred by the excessive protests of Mark Walport or the over-selling of what is actually a nice piece of virology.

But I have squeezed in a little additional reading on Continue reading

Posted in communication, History of Science, Science & Media, Science & Politics | Comments Off