Thursday, 24 February 2011

A word of encouragement

I was sad to read this blog the other day. I found it worth the read because I never want to feel that way about my job. It is about a successful academic gets sick of the rat race and has left academia. He even likens doing science to a drug addiction. 

While some comments ring true, the only thing I could think of was this anonymous poem that I discovered many years ago, which I like to remind myself of on occasions like this. I thought I'd share it here, and I hope it might come in useful to someone else out there.

If there was ever a time to dare,
To make a difference,
To embark on something worth doing,
It is now.
Not for any grand cause, necessarily...
But for something that tugs at your heart,
Something that's your inspiration,
Something that's your dream.
You owe it to yourself
To make your days here count.
Have fun.
Dig deep. 

Dream big.
Know, though, that things worth doing
seldom come easy.
There will be good days.
And there will be bad days.
There will be times when you want to turn around,
pack it up, and call it quits.
Those times tell you
That you are pushing yourself,
That you are not afraid to learn by trying.
Because with an idea,
Determination, and the right tools,
You can do great things.
Let your instincts, your intellect,
And your heart, guide you.
Believe in the incredible power of the human mind.
Of doing something that makes a difference.
Of working hard.
Of laughing and hoping.
Of lazy afternoons.
Of lasting friends.
Of all the things that will cross your path this year.
The start of something new
Brings the hope of something great,
Anything is possible. 

Thursday, 17 February 2011


In my latest post I was considering changing the name of this blog in order to "not give false impressions". You know what? I've changed my mind. I'm keeping the name. But this brings me to a greater issue: why did I feel I couldn't "just be me" in writing this blog?

It seems pretty obvious, but I am not a stereotype. I'm not a 'typical geek' or a 'girly girl' or anything else that you care to mention, I'm just me.

This change in view comes after I was pointed to this blog by my friend @twhyntie, which was a bit of a cause for discussion on twitter between @hannahdev (Science correspondent for The Times and Eureka) and @AngelaDSaini (Science Journalist and author).

I think there is one obvious answer as to whether you should "dress down" when working in science. Absolutely not. I'm sure my (almost entirely male) colleagues don't give a damn what I wear to work. If I wanted to wear a pink matching parachute tracksuit they probably wouldn't bat an eyelid. Just as they wouldn't if I happened to be wearing Alexander McQueen or the most awesome Manolo Blahniks. Although why I'd want to wear either of those to work I've no idea, it's probably a health and safety hazard.

What I wear and my appearance in general is something that I do to please me, because it feels good to look good. If it doesn't do the same for you don't bother, it doesn't have to, each to their own. I'm certain that no-one thinks that my work suffers for it, and I'm certainly not going to go around acting like it makes any difference at all.

I'd have to say, if you think people are judging your work by the way you look, it's probably not the way you look, it's most likely your work. If they are judging you unfairly then that is their own problem, not yours, and it's something they should look at.

Have the confidence to wear whatever you want. Alright, rant over.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Time for a change? Your help needed.

Dear readers,

It has recently been brought to my attention that the name previous layout of my blog may be giving one of two impressions:

1. That I think women in science should be stereotypically girly and love shoes and clothes as much as I do


2. That I'm being ironic because women can't wear heels in the lab because it compromises health & safety

I'd just like to say that I was not intentionally trying to give either of these impressions. I happen to like clothes & shoes, and I happen to work in a facility which has the title of a Lab.

So, I think it's time for a change. You'll note that I've changed the background already but now I'm looking for a new blog title (& subtitle... I've never liked the current one).

Please comment your suggestions, they ought to reflect the fact that the blog is written by a female scientist and will therefore contain views on science and being a female researcher.

Thanks and I hope this is a step forward. Thoughts are welcome.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Real Deal: Marieke Navin, particle physicist turned science communicator

In the 3rd post of the series, I interviewed Marieke Navin, an enthusiastic and talented science communicator with a PhD in particle physics and a long-held dream of being an astronaut. Here's what she had to tell me.

You can find Marieke on twitter: @lisamarieke

Tell us about you & what you do?

I have recently completed my PhD in particle physics, studying particles called neutrinos. The experiment I worked on is located deep within a mine in Japan so I had the opportunity to do shifts out there, which could also coincide with skiing in the Japanese Alps! Now I work as Science Communication Officer at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Manchester.  It’s a really varied role and involves organising informal science events showcasing scientific research in Manchester and the northwest, organising the MOSI programme for Manchester science festival and developing science busking activities to name a few.

What career did you think you would have when you were younger?

I was always going to be an astronaut. I even won a competition to go to Space Camp. I’m still harbouring that dream to be honest…

What is it that makes you want to come to work each day?

Marieke during the FameLab competition
When I was a PhD student it was the excitement of trying to solve the problems and create the right materials for the job. There were so many challenges to face, such as finding a bug in my code, growing mould in my samples, even producing posters or talks for conferences. Sometimes the challenges were overwhelming! Now in this job, I’m excited to plan a variety of science events and make contact with and meet a wide variety of scientists in Manchester and provide them with a platform to showcase their work. Ultimately my main motivation is to enhance the visitor’s day at the museum and enthuse them about science (and engineering and maths!)

If you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be?
Don’t stress and worry so much, it’ll all work out OK in the end.

What is the best/worst thing about your job?
Best – variety, satisfaction of putting on great events with fantastic feedback from visitors. Worst – Not having enough money to do all the things I want to do! Constantly being pressured to look for funding that is being cut.

What do you enjoy other than science?
Travelling – I took my baby to Paris and Helsinki recently. I also love swimming but I do it a lot less now. I love cycling and cycle everywhere I can with a baby seat on the back.

Who or what is your greatest inspiration (science or otherwise)?
I am inspired by ladies like Vivienne Parry – a long and varied career in science communication and broadcasting as well as managing a family life.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Real Deal: Georgina Sheedy-Collier, Physics student

In this post I wanted to find out what it's really like to be a physics student. I asked Georgina Sheedy-Collier, physics student at Durham University - a self-confessed girly-girl who loves (and excels in) science. Here's her story.

What do you do & give 3 words that describe how you got there?
Physics student at Durham University: Self-motivation, dedication and enthusiasm.

What career did you think you would have when you were younger?
An actress. How things change...

What is it that makes you want to come to work each day?
Intrigue in the subject and a desire to go deeper into Physics.

What is the one thing you'd love to achieve in your research?
To stumble across something, provoking thoughts along the lines of "Hmm..that's odd.".

What is the best/worst thing about your job?
Best thing, the sense of achievement when a penny drops and you understand something, or making a breakthrough. Worst thing, how much your brain hurts sometimes trying to get to that stage!

What do you enjoy other than science?
Lots of socialising, whenever there's an excuse. I love all things girly; shopping, hair, make-up..oh and I'm sorry to say, fake tan. I love the outdoors, play netball and enjoy leisurely swimming.

What would be your ideal holiday?
Somewhere with lots of sun and delicious food!

Who or what is your greatest inspiration (science or otherwise)?
My A-Level Physics Teacher, Desmond Thompson. He taught Physics with such a zest for the subject and his enthusiasm was contagious. He would often put more emphasis on the beauty of the way Physics links together and explains anything and everything once you start to explore further, than necessarily the content of the course itself, but that naturally made the course so much more fascinating; learning things that the greatest minds had once worked towards discovering themselves. It made me realise that whilst we are learning, we are bringing ourselves closer to possibly becoming another great mind and making our own discoveries.