Monthly Archives: September 2012

How NOT to encourage girls to study science

The EU’s attempt to get more girls into Science is JUST awful.

Watch it and be amazed at how terribly stereotypical and just ridiculous this video is!!

Yes, some female scientists are beautiful (a lot of women who aren’t scientists are too), and there is obviously a huge base of scientists in the cosmetic industry…but trying to attract girls into the sciences cannot and should not be done by adding pink sparkles, make-up and models in short skirts…especially when they’re not actually doing any science. This video looks more like a bad Euro-pop video than a marketing scheme for the sciences.

I’m quite lucky that science is ‘in my blood’. My Grandad was a chemist, my Mum is a Botonist, my Auntie is a Dentist, my sister is an IT geek, and my youngest cousin has just started a degree in Astrophysics. So we’re a pretty mixed bunch, but still, science and women in my family isn’t seen as ‘unusual’… when I decided I wanted to do a PhD in Neuroscience, even the Accountants in my family were supportive.

Also, science is awesome on its own. You don’t need to dress it up in sparkles to see that. We wouldn’t have the amazing technology we all depend upon today if it wasn’t for science. Sure, I love the pink cover on my iPhone, but its the chemists and engineers who designed and tested the durable rubber, and the software and computer scientists who designed the phone and made it ‘do what it does’. I wouldn’t be posting this blog on-line if it wasn’t for the internet, the guys who designed my laptop, and the people that made my glasses. Science is Everywhere! And its awesome.

I’m an avid follower of the increasingly popular ‘I fucking love science‘ Facebook group. Some of their posts are comical, but some just show how amazing science is. From arthropods to asteroids, these guys love anything to do with science.  So rather than making science appealing with make-up and glitter, we should be encouraging more girls to take up  the sciences because Science is Fricking AWESOME.

Rant over.


How to survive the Upgrade

I submitted my Upgrade report 2 months ago. I recently received the comments and suggested amendments from my assessors – what a smack in the face to my confidence!! But it’s all been taken on board and revisions have been made. Its only the final push until I submit the final version, sit back, and wait.

In the mean time it has made me reflect on what a stressful time its been! Its quite a lot to ask a PhD student after only 9 months ‘What have you done?’ ‘Did it work?’ ‘What are your plans for the next 2-and-a-bit-years?’.


So this is my guide to surviving the upgrade…perhaps a little tongue in cheek, but how I survived nonetheless!

  1. Coffee – After 8 months of reading papers, writing a literature review and testing the odd participant, I needed all 24 hours in the day and then some to get enough participants for a valid results section and time to read up and write about the methods I should really already know about.
  2. Sleep- After a few days of panic reading and trying to literally work 24 hour days words became meaningless and my writing was no more understandable than that of a 4 month old baby.
  3. LEAVE ENOUGH TIME- The minute theres even a whisper of an upgrade report, you should have started it yesterday.
  4. Toughen up- you will get comments made about your work and you will probably take it personally. Don’t. The sooner you get used to constructive comments the better; this is what peer review is like. Take it all as a learning experience.
  5. Talk to other people – You won’t be the only one stressed, and you won’t be the only one with a supervisor whose asking for a zillion amendments a day before you hand in.
  6. Breathe – You’ll get through it 🙂

Cumberland Lodge Conference #2

Finally! Some time to recount my remaining time at Cumberland Lodge!

Thursday was ‘the big presentation’. It actually wasn’t that bad! I’m pleased with the way it went and the fantastic feedback I received.

Sadly I wasn’t able to stay longer than Thursday Lunch, but what I managed to experience was fantastic.

There were obviously other people presenting as well as me! And the range of topics was so vast, as I said in my last blog we had Poetry to Psychiatry. It was such a wonderful experience to hear about projects I would otherwise be completely oblivious to.

My group was situated in the Library, which in itself was a wonderful experience, the room is beautiful and you really feel like you’re in a well respected academic setting.

We started with a presentation on human rights and sustainable development, which really gave me insight into two issues – ‘Environmental protection and ‘Human rights protection’. Basically, the concepts can co-exist, so policies in one can affect the other. Who knew?! This researcher could literally change EU policy with her research…its amazing!

We then had a presentation on the social effects and implications of HIV and AIDS in Uganda. A fascinating project on how stigma and the change in how people, especially parents, view HIV in Uganda can effect treatment for children in this part of Africa.

There was a presentation on the potential usefulness of Developed countries’ economic policies are on Developing countries such as Turkey. It was described as the ‘Curate’s Egg’: good in parts, and bad in others.

We then heard about the perception and presence of skin in 17th Century British; never have I heard a presentation so eloquently or beautifully phrased! It made me miss taking English, and keen to get back in touch with my inner humanities student.

My favourite by miles was the study of comic and the senses; it was fascinating to hear how we actually use more than just vision when we read comics, such as the smell and feel of the paper its printed on. The implications are also for how such information can be used to improve the experience of partially sighted or blind comic book readers.

Who knew that both genes and altitude could affect our metabolism? One presentation showed that previous work on Tibetan Sherpas, and current research on…the researchers themselves(!) showed that increased altitude helped reduce metabolic syndrome, as well as a protective genetic factor. There also might be an affect of increased nitrates in our diet…further developments to follow!

We also heard about the legal implications of IVF treatment on parenthood, including rights of both biological and social parents. I never knew it could be so technical.

Research close to my heart was the ethical implications of personal health monitoring. On the plus side it can give elderly or disabled patients more independence in the home, and less need for direct medical care. On the down side there are many ethical data implications; who uses the data and how?

I sadly missed the afternoon presentations, but I’m sure they were all equally engaging and interesting!

I found my experience at Cumberland Lodge invaluable and thoroughly enjoyable. More people should encourage interdisciplinary conferences!! Thanks to all the organisers and attendees that made the experience unforgettable.