Monthly Archives: May 2012

On engaging with the public, and why we do science

This morning I read a fantastic piece by @ScientistsMags about science engagement, which so completely echoed my own sentiments I just had to link to it. Quite apart from the fact that I think we need more women in science and greater scientific literacy amongst the general public, there is another reason why I really like talking to sixth formers and school pupils about science; and even teaching undergrads. Every time I explain my research, I understand it a little bit better myself.


You would think that a scientist would love nothing more than to talk about their work. They do, usually to another scientist. The general public is an afterthought or not even considered. … I do believe that if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough, and so did Richard Feynman.

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Lab fail and a microbiology lesson

You know the feeling. You’ve attempted some cloning for the first time in months. The PCR product (all bloody 3kb of it) has come up fine. The clean up has been successful (I haven’t lost my product!! Yey!!) You’ve stuck a thymine on the end, ligated it into a vector, heat shocked the cells… and now it’s 9am and you’re looking to see what’s grown.

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A career opportunity or slave labour

On Sunday the Independent ran an article entitled ‘Postgraduate students are being used as ‘slave labour‘ discussing how more and more teaching is being done by postgraduates, in order to save on teaching costs. This dovetails quite nicely with an email I had from our Postgrad representatives in Senate last week asking about standard practice in my department: How much teaching do postgrads do? Is there training? Are we supported?

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A quick round up

It’s been a busy few days, and in the meantime lots of other people (who may be more articulate than I am right now) have done some great coverage of the Take the Flour Back protest, and GM stuff in general. I kinda want to get out of my little Rothamsted loop and talk about something else, so here are some links to articles and blog pieces I enjoyed.

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Someone is WRONG on the internet (More on GM…)

This is me this lunch time:

Faced with a day of experiments that don’t require poking every 15 minutes, an inability to order anything due to some delightful fluke of our ordering system, no teaching commitments because my undergrads had their exam this morning, and no social engagements, you might expect that I would be spending a peaceful half hour sat on a polystyrene box outside my office enjoying the sun. (That’s not actually a joke… photos to follow).

Sadly, not.

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Having a whale of a time!

Just occasionally, I find it in me to write about some ecology (aka fluffy bunny biology). Lots of female biologists end up studying science because they just want to cuddle the world, but I’ve always been more of a molecular person. (In fact, I probably would have studied Chemistry or Physics if the teaching had been half as good as it was in the Biology department at my school). Nevertheless I do have brief lapses into wanting to stroke fluffy things, and I am always game for a cool story about animals.

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More Q & A from Rothamsted

Sense about Science have published another interesting Q & A session with the Rothamsted scientists about GM in general and their experiment in particular.

You can read it all here.

And in related news a man has been charged with criminal damage (having vandalised the Rothamsted test plots).