Athena SWAN reaches Ireland

Published in the Times Higher on 30th July, Holly Else reports that ‘the Equity Challenge Unit has awarded Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick bronze institutional awards for their work on promoting women’s careers in science subjects. Irish universities made ten applications, including those of the two successful institutions, to the scheme, which was launched in Ireland as a pilot project earlier this year. Trinity College Dublin also achieved bronze departmental awards for its schools of chemistry, physics and natural sciences.’

Follow this link to read more – Athena SWAN reaches Ireland


Open season for female scientists

Dr Joanna Bagniewska (Teaching Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading), has written a blog post on Soapbox Science about gender discrimination in particular at conferences:

‘Because I’m a zoologist working in a rather gender-balanced and female-friendly environment, I have for a long time thought that the discrimination of women in STEM is a largely exaggerated problem. But then it hit me with the force of a charging elephant (the one that’s in the room).  A couple of years ago I found myself at an engineering conference, eager to develop collaborations for a biotelemetry project. My enthusiasm for networking was, however, curbed very quickly – to be precise, at the point when the organisers gave “a warm welcome to the engineers and the beautiful ladies”. From then on things went downhill………….’

Do you have any similar experiences? Follow this link to read the full blog post – Soapbox Science

Soapbox Science is a public outreach platform for promoting women scientists and the work they do. If you are interested in getting involved or participating in one of their events then follow this link to contact the organisers – Events

Could we hold similar events in Reading?

Soapbox Science event

Soapbox Science event


Women in science awards open for nominations

WISE is a campaign to promote women in science, technology and engineering.  Follow this link to read more – WISE

A report published earlier this month by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) highlighted a major shortage of skilled workers in STEM sector roles, and recommended that employers make STEM roles more appealing to women.  So why not submit your nomination by August 17 and help the WISE Campaign celebrate the successes of women working in STEM, the men and women that support them and inspire a new generation.There couldn’t be a better time to nominate yourself, an individual or an organisation for this year’s WISE Awards.

The annual WISE Awards recognise individuals and organisations who are actively promoting science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to girls and young women. The event also offers the chance to hear stories of inspirational women working in STEM careers, and to take part in networking activities. The shortlist at last year’s awards comprised some amazing people, from students and apprentices inspiring other girls to forge a career in STEM, to women making great advances in science and technology in both the corporate and academic worlds. STEM organisations were also honoured for their efforts in promoting and supporting diversity in the workplace. Among those shortlisted last year were Professor Tara Moore, director of the Biomedical Science Research Institute at Ulster University, and Loraine Martins MBE, director of diversity and inclusion at Network Rail.’


Workaholism isn’t a valid requirement for advancing in science

The importance of a work-life balance is highlighted by Bryan Gaensler (Director, Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto) in an article from 13th July 2015 in The Conversation.  This is an excellent article and well worth reading…..

‘Science demands a lot of its disciples, so scientists should take control, not be controlled. Young researchers should determine how, where and when they work best, should set themselves rules, and then should try to stick to them. Ever since my time as a postdoc at MIT, I aim to walk out the door by 5 or 6 every night, I try not to answer emails on weekends and I take my allotted vacation time. Just as heads and directors are expected to be exemplars in our research, we must lead by example in work–life balance.’

What do you think? Does the competitive culture of working long hours exist here?  Do you have a work-life balance?  How can this be improved? Should we all be more open about taking holidays and not working weekends?

What time do you think it's safe for me to leave work?

What time do you think it’s safe for me to leave work?

Keeping mindfulness in mind

An article about mindfulness by James Brooks was published in Research Professional on 22nd July 2015.  A number of Universities run mindfulness sessions for students but there is generally less support for academics and research staff.

‘Willem Kuyken is the director of the University of Oxford’s Mindfulness Centre. Kuyken is a clinical psychologist and, like many mindfulness researchers, he also practises the technique. But his peers outside the field tend to view mindfulness rather sceptically. “That scepticism is very healthy,” he says. “My colleagues want to see the evidence, they want to see the assumptions unpacked, they want clear definitions. That’s good.” However, he acknowledges that such scepticism makes them less likely to try it for themselves. Are they missing out on something that could help them in their jobs? Kuyken doesn’t preach. He does say, however, that mindfulness has strongly informed his approach to research: “When puzzling over data, for example, mindfulness practice can bring a different, non-analytical mode of mind to that usually employed. In that mode, I find that creative solutions can appear.”

Have you tried using mindfulness techniques?  Do they work for you? Would you like more courses to be offered in the University?


Be selfish with your career, advises academic blogger

Stephen Curry is a Structural Biologist at Imperial College London.  As well as conducting research and teaching, he also writes a blog, is a panel member for research policy reviews, and works with the Campaign for Science and Engineering, and Science is Vital to lobby for increased science funding.  Stephen argues, “it’s your career and it’s your life: you only get one shot at what you want to do.”

‘It was his experimental nature that no doubt led Curry to start a blog about being a scientist without asking for approval from his colleagues or seniors at Imperial. “Someone wise once told me that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission,” says Curry, who adds that he was nervous because of the prevailing notion that writing blogposts was trivial compared with writing papers or grants. “I do have to be mindful,” he says. “I don’t write blogposts during the day.”

The full article by Adam Smith about Stephen’s career was published in Research Professional on 22nd July 2015.

What do you think? Do you find blogs useful?! Is there a place for blogs as well as published papers?


Applications open for women’s development programmes

As part of the University’s commitment to supporting the career development of women, applications to the Springboard women’s development programme and the Leadership Foundation’s Aurora women’s leadership development programme for 2015-16 are now open. To find out more follow this link – Women’s Development Programme


I completed the Springboard this year and I am happy to discuss the programme with anyone who might be interested – just let me know.


Challenge for the summer – updated

As you may have seen there have been lots of moves taking place (particularly in Wager), as well as the regular summer tidy up.  While moving equipment this week we have come across paperwork relating to samples run in 1983 and then 1967!  Have you found anything older in your lab/office?  The challenge is on…….

XRF analysis from January 1983

XRF analysis from January 1983












XRF analysis from 1967

XRF analysis from 1967

Is flexible working holding back women’s careers?

Published today (23rd July) in the Times Higher, Jack Grove examines whether flexible working is holding back women’s careers.

‘Letting people work hours that help them juggle childcare and professional commitments would seem like an unqualified good for university staff. But flexible working can also be a “double-edged sword”, with adverse consequences on women’s long-term career prospects, a major new study has warned. In a report published last week, the New Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff’s working group on gender pay says there is a “misperception of the value of flexible workers” at some institutions that meant that “some individuals…could be seen as less promotable because they work flexibly”. That harmful view is more likely to affect women than men, says the group, which included representatives from universities, trade unions and the Equality Challenge Unit…………….’

Follow this link to read more – Times Higher

flexible working








Would you consider flexible working?  Does this work for you?