You do not need to work 80 hours a week to succeed in academia

Published today in the Times Higher, Meghan Duffy (Associate Professor at the Duffy Lab University of Michigan) argues how you can get on in academia without being chained to your desk:

‘There is a persistent myth (some might even call it a  zombie idea) that getting tenure in academia requires working 80 hours a week. There’s even a joke along the lines of “The great thing about academia is the flexibility. You can work whatever 80 hours a week you want!”

The idea that you need to work 80 hours a week in order to publish or get grants or tenure is simply wrong. Moreover, I think it’s damaging. I hear routinely from younger folk (often women) who are seriously considering leaving academia primarily because they think that a tenure track position would require working so much that they wouldn’t be able to have any life outside work (including raising a family). So, this is my attempt at slaying the zombie idea that succeeding in academia requires working as much as an investment banker…………’

How many hours a week to you work?  Have you ever added up the time you actually spend working?  Do we have a competitive atmosphere in terms of the number of hours people work?



Women can’t understand scientific facts.

Last week I highlighted Averil Macdonald’s comments that women ‘don’t understand’ the science behind fracking and only oppose it based on ‘gut feeling’. Published in the Telegraph on 23rd October, Claire Cohen begs to differ from these views:

………. ‘It’s exactly this sort of talk that puts young women in Britain off careers in STEM. It’s especially maddening when you consider she actually went on to acknowledge the problem in the same interview. She pointed out there were too few women at senior levels in the shale industry and added she was disappointed when all ten of the executives who interviewed her were men.  “Frequently the women haven’t had very much in the way of a science education because they may well have dropped science at 16. That is just a fact,” she added. Presumably not a fact we women, with our snap judgments and ‘gut feelings’ can understand. Rather than blame women’s lack of science education for their opposition to fracking, shouldn’t Britain’s leading scientists be asking why we’re so excluded from the conversation in the first place?’

What do you think about Averil Macdonald’s comments?


Women ‘don’t understand’ fracking, leading scientist claims

Published today in the Telegraph, Camilla Turner discusses Averil Macdonald’s comments that ‘women are opposed to fracking because they “don’t understand” and follow their gut instinct rather than the facts……. Averil Macdonald, the chairwoman of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said that many women are concerned about fracking, yet often lack a scientific understand of the topic.’

‘Averil Macdonald is leading a campaign to persuade women that the process is safe and will benefit Britain’s economy as well as help to meet climate change targets. Prof Macdonald, who is a board member of Women in Science and Engineering, said that women were more likely to form opinions based on “feel” and “gut reaction”. Merely showing them more facts demonstrating that fracking was safe would not change their minds, she said.’

[Men] will say, ‘fair enough, understand’. But women, for whatever reason, have not been persuaded by the facts. More facts are not going to make any difference. “What we have got to do is understand the gut reaction, the feel. The dialogue is more important than the dissemination of facts.”

What do you think about Averil Macdonald’s comments? Are these comments helpful? Do you believe you understand the facts about fracking? Do you base your decisions on gut instinct or fact? Or both? If you are a woman would you rather have ‘dialogue’ or facts?  Or again, both?!


The skills you need to succeed in group working

Many people find that their experiences of ‘group work’ are challenging.  The ability to work inclusively with others, to manage group projects effectively and to communicate with a diverse group of colleagues is not just a skill which is useful at University.  It is a real asset to anyone looking for employment.  

 With this is mind, the next talk in the ‘Life Tools’ programme – ‘Working with Diversity – how to succeed in group working’ will provide information and tips to enable successful group work.  It will provide advice on effective communication and techniques to manage difficult situations more effectively. The talk is on Monday 26th October at 3.00pm in Carrington building, room 201.

‘Life Tools’ talks are open to all students – there is no need to book a place, just come along on the day.   

Previous attendees have made the following comments about the Life Tools talks:


‘A very valuable talk with a great speaker’

‘You can apply the information to many situations’

‘It will give you useful, friendly advice on a subject that will affect you throughout your lifetime’

Group work




Sexist banter ‘should be tackled’ in schools

Published on the BBC News Website on the 20th October Hannah Richardson reports that ‘Schools are being urged to tackle the use of sexist language to avoid youngsters being gender stereotyped. An Institute of Physics (IoP) guide argues schools do not take sexist “banter” as seriously as they do racist or homophobic language. This can lead to gender stereotyping and turn girls away from studying science subjects as often as boys. “No woman should feel that their gender is a barrier to their success,” the government said……… Interestingly, the report referred as much to the gender stereotyping of boys as much as girls. It said: “Lack of confidence and resilience can present a barrier for girls taking subjects perceived to be the most challenging and boys can get caught up in a culture of not working hard.”

Gender stereo

Early stereotyping can put women off certain careers, the report suggests.

THE WELLBEING CAFE – TOMORROW (Wednesday) 1 to 2.30 in the RUSU Study

THE WELLBEING CAFE – TOMORROW (Wednesday) 1 to 2.30 in the RUSU Study

Feeling homesick?  – Come and share your experiences of settling in to life at uni…

Feeling homesick in the first term at university is very common – about 60% of all students get homesick. Homesickness can affect anyone – male, female, younger, or older – we all have attachments to our families, friendship groups, and familiar places.  Lack of familiarity and ‘stretched emotional bonds’ can make daily life in a new place feel much more of an effort, and leave you feeling ‘lost’.

We’ll be talking about Homesickness tomorrow at the weekly Wellbeing Cafe from 1 to 2.30 in the Study (the one story building in the Student Union Car Park). 

Come along and share your experiences with other students in a welcoming and friendly setting.

Claire Gregor from the Student Wellbeing service will be on hand to answer questions and offer advice from 1.30 to 2.00.

Join us for a free cuppa and loads of useful tips on ways to make settling into university as stress-free as possible!

We look forward to meeting you!

Peer Support

Students Supporting Students and Student Wellbeing

‘Time to Talk, Space to Think, Someone to Listen’




STEM career hero: ‘I became a geologist by accident’

Published in the Telegraph on the 25th September: ‘BP’s chief scientist describes the field trip that changed her life, and how STEM students can make themselves stand out.’  Paul Bray spoke to Dr Angela Strank (BP’s head of downstream technology and chief scientist) about how she became a geologist.

‘I became a geologist by accident. I originally applied to study chemistry at university but we had to take a subsidiary subject and I chose geology. One field trip and I was hooked on this subject that explains how the Earth actually works.

I knew I had to differentiate myself, so I did a PhD in micropalaeontology – studying the tiny fossils used to date and categorise rock types and build up a picture of the subsurface. It was a very specialised and sought-after skill-set, and it was my entry ticket to the industry.

You really stood out as a woman in those days, especially offshore. On my first trip I had to sleep in the medical centre because there was no female accommodation. But people were very welcoming and soon we just worked together as a team.’

Angela Strank, photographed At BP Sunbury, 15.9.2015, by Graham Trott.  Dr Angela Strank recommends that STEM students have flexible mindsets so they can be open to a wider variety of career options

Angela Strank, photographed At BP Sunbury, 15.9.2015, by Graham Trott. Dr Angela Strank recommends that STEM students have flexible mindsets so they can be open to a wider variety of career options

More women researchers needed ‘to deliver food security’

Reported on 17th October by Mark Kinver on the BBC News website – ‘policy and business leaders have used a major food conference to highlight the need for more women in the global agriculture sector’

…….. “It is a global problem so we have to change the global culture surrounding science and who can be a scientist.  A report produced by the Campaign for Science and Engineering (Case) that examined diversity in UK Stem said that just 9% of those involved in non-medical Stem posts were women. However, it also highlighted that the problems facing the science sector in the UK went beyond gender equality. The authors reported that there was an annual shortfall of 40,000 skilled Stem workers. Dr Kamau-Rutenberg told the BBC the shortfall illustrated why it was critical to attract more young women to pursue careers in the Stem sector. We need to expand the pool of talent and increase the number of scientists. Investing in women scientists is a really good way to solve the problem of not enough scientists being available to do the work.”

Women account for only a small proportion of skilled scientists worldwide

Women account for only a small proportion of skilled scientists worldwide

Strengthen your Resilience

There are two ‘Life Tools’ talks being given this week.  After the talk on ‘Mindfulness’ on Wednesday, the second talk  ‘Strengthen your Resilience’ is taking place on Thursday 22nd October, at 3.00pm in Palmer 102

At this talk, students will learn how to prepare for the upcoming challenges in the year ahead.  They will find out how to develop the mind-set and personal ‘tools’ to adapt well in the face of stress or difficulties and to remain resilient in the face of academic or personal trials.  Resilience is an attribute much in demand from employers too.   

Life Tools talks are open to all students – there is no need to book a place, just come along on the day.  Attendance at a Life Tools talk also counts towards the Red Award.

Keep going


Career Trajectories: Not Always Straight and Easy

On 18th October Athene Donald published an interesting blog post about career trajectories:

‘It is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking anyone who has reached the top of their particular tree has travelled in a straight line from their teenage years on and have had the cards always stacked in their favour……………………………… You don’t have to travel in a straight line; you can step back or start late and yet still achieve a fantastic amount.’


What is your experience?  Have you travelled in a straight line?  Or taken a more ‘curved’ route?

Career traj