Category Archives: Women in Science

#summergoals: End of July evaluation

A few weeks ago I decided to get a handle on my summer by setting myself some goals (thanks to  Flora Poste for giving me the idea!) . I’m a very target driven person and also prone to floundering without a schedule (someone remind me why on earth I wanted to do a PhD?) The aim of the game was to make SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound). In other words I set myself a whole bunch of tasks to be achieved; some big, some small; that would help my PhD in a noticeable way, and that were supposed to be complete by certain deadlines. The end of July was one of these deadlines.

My first recap of #summergoals was pretty successful. The end of July… less so.

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#summergoals: How to survive July and August

At some stage yesterday, one of my Tweeps posted this article by Flora Poste about how to survive the summer without the structure of undergraduate teaching and other regular commitments to keep us in check. I think this is a topic I need to think about more, especially at the moment. I have a lot of … stuff … on my plate right now, and therefore not much lab work is getting done because I am easily distracted by a) moping about Alex, b) trying to fight fire in other quarters and c) faffing on the internet.  And I suffer from lab stage fright. The longer I go without doing things, the less gets done. And so now, after two weeks of moving house and giving a conference talk and … this week … I am getting to full on procrastinating-so-I-don’t-have-to-face-the-lab stage.

My friends and associates would have you believe that I am extraordinarily busy and organised. Little do they know that this is because I am incapable of getting anything done without structure. At school, university and in my first job I was superbly motivated and competent because I was busy all the time. As a PhD student I can regularly waste entire days achieving very little. At my best, I work incredibly efficiently by having every hour of the day scheduled: something that is very hard to do with a lab-based PhD!

So while my qPCR is running, and I am stuck here on a Friday afternoon while most of the lab skives off (PI is elsewhere today) here is my attempt to regulate myself for the next couple of weeks. The time scales are specific because I am really good at putting stuff off.

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Science: it’s a girl thing. We are nerdy and that is okay.

This week the EU Commission launched a campaign called Science: It’s a girl thing designed to encourage girls to  become scientists. It involved some nice shorts of female scientists talking about who they are and what they do.

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Science: It’s a girl thing (or “How to patronise women and alienate your audience”)

My morning has begun with rage. This week the EU Commission launched a new campaign designed to encourage teenaged girls to go into science (apparently by breaking down stereotypes…) It’s called Science: It’s a girl thing. The campaign so far is basically a series of short, fairly-bland-but-inoffensive youtube clips introducing female scientists: a kind of ‘This is what a scientist looks like’ campaign, if you will, accompanied by various stats.

Overall it sounds like a well-meaning campaign that isn’t going to cost anyone much money, and might have a positive effect in making teenage girls see science as a valid career path for them. But hang on a second. There’s a PR machine behind this thing, which kicked off today. And it’s turning into a train crash.

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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.

Excerpt:

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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Where have all the women gone?

About a week ago Lesley Yellowlees President-Elect of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and Vice-Principal at the University of Edinburgh, described the UK as being 50 years behind the States in terms of “advancing the cause of women scientists”.  While over a quarter of the fellows appointed by the (American) National Academy of Science this year were women, just 2 of the 44 newly appointed FRS were female. Why are there so few women in the upper echelons of science? Continue reading