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Beware of the monoculture (why diversity is good for crops and tech companies)

monoculture

In the 1930’s, the USA along with a number of other countries, went through a massive economic depression. This was in no small part due to a lack of diversity. Those amber waves of grain, which had only been recently planted, were a monoculture. There was a drought and then, as happens in the Great Plains, a whole lot of wind and the wh Continue reading

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A student’s guide to finding and securing a desirable PhD mentor in the biomedical sciences

Several years ago I wrote a satirical article titled How not to get a lab job.” In that piece, designed primarily for graduate students who were looking for post-doctoral positions, I tried to use real-life examples based on the types of letters and applications that I received to humorously illustrate what not to do in looking for a position. By Continue reading

Posted in anxiety, career, career in science, education, faculty, graduate program, graduate student, how to find a mentor, laboratories, labs, large lab, mentor, mentors, mentorship, new investigator, PhD students, position, post-doc, postdoc, postdoctoral fellow, productivity, publications, Research, rotations, science, scientific career, stress, success in the lab, university, vetting | Comments Off on A student’s guide to finding and securing a desirable PhD mentor in the biomedical sciences

The Sound of Silence

There is the blissful silence away from email because you are lounging on a warm beach somewhere (or up a cold and wet mountain, according to taste) with your smart phone resolutely turned off. But the silence only lasts as long as your resolution lasts, before the hideous sounds or noisy vibration of your phone kicks in. But that isn’t quite the s Continue reading

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What Genre Do You Write In?

I’ve been reading a surprising amount about conehead crickets recently. An insect I had never previously encountered but which crossed my path, metaphorically, twice in one day due to my bad habit of reading multiple books simultaneously. On my Kindle I’ve been enjoying A Sting in the Tail by Dave Goulson, a book recommended to me by Mary Beard as Continue reading

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So who is she then?

Well, here we are at the end of our promised series of “The Materials Scientist, Who is She?” workshops. Before I give you the answer to our eternal question, first let me tell you what worked well with the logistics: We proposed three different dates and let the colleagues choose which to attend; this was a good plan because there was Continue reading

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You’re Crazy, It’s Impossible

Many people get told messages like this.  You’ll never manage this, you’re insane to try that, don’t even think about starting the other…..every reader will have their own particular bête noire version of these phrases thrown at them as a put down. Perhaps it was something you were told at 11 – ‘girls are no good at maths’ for instance, or ‘boys ar Continue reading

Posted in #Ididitanyway, Bernhard Schrefler, Science Culture, Womanthology, Women in science | Comments Off on You’re Crazy, It’s Impossible

Transparency and the Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap has been much in the news with the revelations about the pay of the BBC’s superstars. Whatever you may feel about the level of remuneration for Chris Evans compared with Andrew Marr, whether you believe one is worth more or less than the other, I think it is clear there is little transparency in the process by which the ‘co Continue reading

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Are Things Getting Better for Postdocs in Cambridge?

As a recent article in Nature pointed out, housing costs in Cambridge are a significant issue for new recruits to the university. As a city it suffers both from its proximity to London – well within commuter belt, as the busyness of the peak time trains attest – and from sitting at the centre of the thriving Cambridge cluster. It isn’t only the uni Continue reading

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The meaning of sixty

I recently celebrated my sixtieth birthday. I had a very nice birthday party in a local pub with several friends and family members. Having plied them with food and drink I thought I’d earned the right to give a short homily about being sixty.  Here it is. At the end are a few photos from the evening. Continue reading

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In which we are snapped

Rohn Lab July 2017
Current Team Wee-Wee: Jane, Johannes, Dhan, Harry, Monika, Me, Kristina

I’ve been meaning to make a lab website for a long time now, but you know how it is: ten million other things intrude, higher priority items forever bumping lower ones down the queue. Even though I don’t yet have anywhere formal to put it, I thought it high time Continue reading

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On Project Management

Like many academics I am woefully untrained for many aspects of my job. My route to my position, which I think is a fairly common trajectory, was to spend much of my life learning how to solve other people’s science problems, then to go on to find that I have a knack for generating interesting problems of my own. This led to my very nice Prof Continue reading

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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

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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

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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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