Latest posts

Rock

There’s been a lot of it about. Musicians, that is, unable to play live during lockdown, finding other ways to express themselves. During the recent hiatus I have become very keen on home recording, and some of the results are available commercially (you can browse them here). Much of this is done all on my own, tout seul, and, what’s more, in the absence of others. An exception has be Continue reading

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Where are the Women of Yester Year?

A few weeks ago I wrote about Mary Astell, a woman from the seventeenth century whose interest and reading in natural philosophy/science was, as has recently become clear, much greater than had previously been attributed to her. I am intrigued by how women in different spheres are now being rediscovered, or their efforts being accorded more respect, than previously. We can’t reinvent the past, or Continue reading

Posted in Barbara Strozzi, composers, Equality, Music, Sally Beamish | Comments Off on Where are the Women of Yester Year?

An open letter to students of Materials Science and Engineering

(first published in The Materialist, May 2021)

Dear Materials Science and Engineering Students,

I congratulate you whole-heartedly on your choice of Materials Science and Engineering for your undergraduate studies.  You are all a whole lot smarter than I am. When I was at your career stage, I had barely heard of Materials Science.  I started out studying Natural Sciences (a bit like our ETH Interd Continue reading

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Allotment

Many years ago when the Gees lived in east London, and I commuted regularly to an orifice office that was located away from my home [fancy! did they still have typewriters? Horse-drawn omnibuses? Public executions? – Ed]  I had an allotment. It was conveniently placed between our home and the tube station, so even on working days I could pop in, especially on summer evenings after work, when Continue reading

Posted in allotment, Domesticrox, Gardening, Lady Chatterley, Mellors, the joy of digging | Comments Off on Allotment

Giving Due Credit

Due Credit

When I was setting out as a young PI, the standard thing to do (on acetates, once we’d moved on from 35mm slides) was to acknowledge co-workers – students or postdocs, or wider collaborators – via a simple list at the end, with affiliations as appropriate. These days, mini mugshots on the relevant slide are de rigeur. It is very nice to see the human face behind exciting results.

Howeve Continue reading

Posted in bad behaviour, conferences, Research, Science Culture, whistleblowing | Comments Off on Giving Due Credit

In which normal life flickers just ’round the corner


Today on a neighbourhood walk with my son, blustery and cold with a few flecks of rain, we passed a window that still had a faded child-drawn rainbow and the advice to “stay safe”. It struck me as rather quaint, like a decades-old newspaper you might find lining a crate of belongings in the attic. A world that was once new and perilous had evolved into a blasé shrug of familiarity.

Continue reading

Posted in academia, Epidemics, Research, The profession of science, work-life balance | Comments Off on In which normal life flickers just ’round the corner

Egg

This is a egg.

A egg. Recently.

Now, you might say, so what, that looks just like any old egg. Continue reading

Posted in Domesticrox | Comments Off on Egg

Red Tape

The announcement of a review of bureaucratic red tape in universities may bring either a smile of relief or a hollow laugh. Why are universities (and funding bodies) so entangled in this nasty stuff? Is it because they love to hire lots of makeweight administrators regardless of need (I think not!), or is it because the Government imposes endless layers of regulatory checks and balances? Once upon Continue reading

Posted in Athena Swan, Equality, forms, panels, Science Culture, Science Funding, UKRI | Comments Off on Red Tape

Chair

You’ll both no doubt recall an earlier post in which I showed an heirloom chair — one of six — that had been rendered useless (at least as a chair) by the depredations of a teething puppy. Here it is, as a reminder. The chair, that is. I’m happy to say that the same chair has been restored, and can now be used once again as a chair.

A Much-Abused Heirloom. Continue reading

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Burnout

As we ‘celebrate’ the anniversary of the UK’s first national lockdown this week, reflection seems in order. Things that seemed unimaginable last March, we now take in our stride, in the sense that we simply get on with them. Coming to terms with them is a different matter. For all those who’ve lost family and friends, inevitably things will never be the same. Grieving their loss will continue to b Continue reading

Posted in education, kindness, pandemic, Science Culture, Spring | Comments Off on Burnout

How are Universities Supporting Those Worst Affected by the Pandemic?

This pandemic has thrown all kinds of inequalities into sharp focus, ranging from fundamental matters of health and wellbeing to job security. The consequences of all these issues will echo down the years ahead, long after the pandemic is a fading nightmare. In terms of (higher) education, the digital divide and who does the homeschooling will both cast a long shadow on opportunity and career prog Continue reading

Posted in Athena Swan, Equality, Liverpool University, National Academy of Sciences, pandemic, tenure clock, Women in science | Comments Off on How are Universities Supporting Those Worst Affected by the Pandemic?

Sartre

‘Hell’, said Jean-Paul Sartre, is ‘Other People’. Although I expect he said it in French. And well might I sympathize. Much has been said about the mental health problems of people suffering from the absence of human contact during the Current Crisis. Rather less has been noised concerning curmudgeons misanthropes people such as myself who find the absence of human contact Continue reading

Posted in disclutteration, Domesticrox, Dreaming, dumpster, Jean-Paul Sartre, Marie Kondo, skip, Technicrox | Comments Off on Sartre

Stalemate

Following the input from the Rating Conferences that I wrote about in the last blog the MSc curriculum revision project team found ourselves going around in circles:

  • Core courses or not? And if so how many? And what makes a course “core”?
  • Specializations or not? Continue reading
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Women as Natural Philosophers: Choosing to Challenge

When the Royal Society was founded in 1660, its first Fellows would have been known not as scientists, but as natural philosophers. Science and scientists were words that came into common parlance only around two hundred years later. So, the Isaac Newton’s and the Robert Boyle’s of the day would have been happy to be thought of as philosophers; it wasn’t felt necessary for there to be distinctions Continue reading

Posted in Margaret Cavendish, Mary Astell, Rene Descartes, Women in science | Comments Off on Women as Natural Philosophers: Choosing to Challenge

Do You Cope with Office Politics or Leverage them?

In academia, appraisals (call them what you will) get different degrees of serious attention. Equally, people pay more or less heed to them, depending on personal circumstances and whether anything useful is said. However, a recent study shows that, as with so much of the working world, subtle gender biases are at play. However well-meaning the appraiser may be in the feedback they give, however p Continue reading

Posted in careers, confidence, Equality, feedback, implicit bias, Impostor syndrome, Science Culture, Stereotypes | Comments Off on Do You Cope with Office Politics or Leverage them?