Latest posts

Zombies and Narratives


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 400px-Lise_Meitner_%281878-1968%29%2C_lecturing_at_Catholic_University%2C_Washington%2C_D.C.%2C_1946.jpg

If you have never seen the ‘zombie Marie Curie’ xkcd cartoon I’d encourage you to take a look. In it Marie Curie says ‘I wish they’d get over me’ and enumerates a couple of other key women scientists who don’t get the same name recognition (specifically Lise Meitner, whose photograph is at the top, and Emmy Noether). Cartoon Marie also highlights that choosing her – or any female scientis Continue reading

Posted in biography, Hedy Lamarr, Lise Meitner, Marie Curie, Women in science, xkcd | Comments Off on Zombies and Narratives

Thinking globally about research evaluation – LIS-Bibliometrics talk

Last Tuesday I attended the 2019 LIS-Bibliometrics meeting which focused on open metrics and measuring openness. I was part of a panel that was asked to discuss the topic “Thinking globally about research evaluation: common challenges, common solutions”. Chaired by Lizzie Gadd from Loughborough University, the panel also included Ian Rowlands (King’s College) and Kate Williams (Harvard Unive Continue reading

Posted in science | Comments Off on Thinking globally about research evaluation – LIS-Bibliometrics talk

In which we grow towards the light

It’s that time of year when the long winter starts to nibble away at your core. Everything feels cold, dark, and dormant, held in abeyance until better times. The festive period is a distant memory, and spring seems so far away that it hurts.

Joshua harvesting parsnips

Of course in this mild climate, the lock-down doesn’t feel quite so absolute. In our garden, a few stubborn ros Continue reading

Posted in Domestic bliss, Gardening, Joshua, Scientific thinking, work-life balance | Comments Off on In which we grow towards the light

Unconscious Bias Consciousness

I’m writing this post from the wonderful Kartause Ittingen where 25 DMATL lecturers, as well as our teaching administration and a colleague from  the ETH Educational Development Center are “Retreating”. Exactly two years and many hundreds of person-hours work since our kick-off retreat, my hope is that our curriculum will magically come together as a coherent and glorious whole, Continue reading

Posted in education, Materials Science | Comments Off on Unconscious Bias Consciousness

Feeling Exhausted


This week I came across an article highlighting the accumulated evidence from multiple studies of the disadvantage women in science suffer, with specific reference to the fields of anthropology, ecology and evolution, the field the author – Kathleen Grogan – had most familiarity with. My own experience would suggest there is nothing unique about those fields. She identified all the reasons Continue reading

Posted in bias, bullying, leaky pipeline, MIT, Science Culture, Women in science | Comments Off on Feeling Exhausted

In which I see through other eyes

A few months ago I had a Twitter encounter with an American far-right Trump supporter.

Unbeknownst to me, this man had been lurking and – as incongruous as it sounds – apparently enjoying my Twitter feed (which is largely, these days, random stuff about science, literature and women in science, sprinkled with occasional absurdity). That is, until I made a rare snide remark about A Continue reading

Posted in Politics, staring into the abyss | Comments Off on In which I see through other eyes

Creativity Mustn’t be Allowed to be Hijacked


 ‘In 2019, the “two cultures” described by CP Snow in 1959 will have finally ceased to have meaning.’

So said Russell Foster in a recent article in Wired. Russell is clearly an optimist and I fear I do not share his optimism, despite all the evidence he adduces in his piece. The examples he cites – including statistics about visitors to the Science Museum – unfortunately only refer t Continue reading

Posted in CP Snow, Russell Foster, science communication, Science Culture | Comments Off on Creativity Mustn’t be Allowed to be Hijacked

Facing up to the Existence of the Jerk


As stories of harassment and bullying multiply in the media (social and otherwise), it is worth thinking about what it is in management and leadership that lets situations get out of hand. Too often I hear the phrase that someone is ‘on the spectrum’ provided as a rationale for why they aren’t too good at interpersonal relationships within a lab or team. I find the phrase objectionable Continue reading

Posted in academia, bullying, gagging orders, leadership, speaking up | Comments Off on Facing up to the Existence of the Jerk

The New Awkward

Ah you see, this vulnerability-plus-authenticity-thing, it’s a new skill I learned recently. It’s only awkward if you make it so*.

I LOVE the vulnerability + authenticity thing! I'm for making anything that isn't this, the new awkward. WhatsApp. It’s like Twitter, but better curated.

Blogging lends itself to the meta.

Over the years, when I have been battered, bruised and even left bleeding from online exchanges, I think back to my abrupt and unintentional induction into science communication; to my first forays into blogging. Continue reading

Posted in Awkward, Life, Meta, New | Comments Off on The New Awkward

Alice’s Restaurant Massacree

I fell a bit behind with the shopping lists, which is a shame because I really wanted to show you this one before Christmas.

It’s a full-blown pre-Christmas shop. Right at the top we’ve got mistletoe and greenery—both queried though: maybe she (definitely a ‘she’) wasn’t sure if Waitrose would have them, or maybe there was already another trip planned.

There’s an interesting mix of prec Continue reading

Posted in Christmas, Shopping lists, turkey | Comments Off on Alice’s Restaurant Massacree

Pyramid Schemes and the Book Cover Challenge


As a child I occasionally got sucked into a strange pyramid form of exchanging postcards, an old-fashioned form of chain mail (but not of the metal variety). The details escape me but the basic idea was that you contacted half a dozen of your friends to encourage them to continue the chain and sent a picture postcard to the person whose name had reached the top of the list you yourself receiv Continue reading

Posted in Jane Austen, JE Gordon, Materials Science, Richard Jones | Comments Off on Pyramid Schemes and the Book Cover Challenge

Twelve days of Christmas

So that was Christmas. And what I did was a little project that you might have missed: a photo for every day of Christmas, from the first to the twelfth. No commentary or explanation, just the photo, and the day as a title. Continue reading

Posted in Christmas, Instagram, personal, Photography | Comments Off on Twelve days of Christmas

In which the unsaid gathers

It’s a new year, and the cursor blinks at me accusingly. It knows I have not written here for some time, and perhaps it wonders why, given that thoughts and feelings are gathering restlessly in my brain and need to get out.

After a marathon blitz of unsociable and family-unfriendly grant writing over the holidays, I finally have a few hours of solitude I can spend, like a pocketful of the Continue reading

Posted in Gardening, staring into the abyss, The ageing process, The profession of science | Comments Off on In which the unsaid gathers

Reinventing the Wheel

CRISPR /Cas9 gene-editing: staying on top of technology is a full-time job for researchers

New Year’s Eve has always been more of a time for reflection for me, rather than a time for partying. Perhaps this stems from growing up in a Canadian climate where late December and early January (or more accurately, October through April) and the accompanying bone-chilling cold and darkness were more l Continue reading

Posted in CRISPR/Cas9, principal investigator, Research, science, technology | Comments Off on Reinventing the Wheel

Endings and Beginnings

New Year’s Eve is almost upon us, so here we are again at the close of one long year and the start of another. Personally, it has been a year of endings and beginnings. Readers of this blog would be forgiven for thinking that it is one of the things that I have wound down in 2018, but in fact I am hoping to stir it to new life.

https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4909/44343935960_82f2a119b7_z.jpgSunrise or sunset? Black Sea coast near Sozopol. Continue reading

Posted in Blogging, Scientific Life | Comments Off on Endings and Beginnings