Last month, the Guardian’s “Academics Anonymous” column talked about the “trouble with the sisterhood in academia”. The underlying narrative is a familiar one, I have heard it often: Women, according to it, complain about gender discrimination, but the shocking truth is women are mean to each other, which makes them their own worst enemy. I call this the “bitchy sisterhood narrative”. Sometimes – as in said column – it goes even further: Because women are so mean and judgy, you can’t even speak out about the problem, because who knows what would happen? “Luckily,” the anonymous author writes, “I’m currently on a flight, 12km above the ground, where I feel safe from the judgments that would confront me were I to exorcise this academic grievance at the coffee station.” This is a rather clever device, at the same time reinforcing the “bitchy sisterhood” image and elegantly pre-empting any critical response.
I’ll respond anyway. Continue reading
This is self-explanatory, really. Here is every book I’ve read since summer 2015. (Mainly for my own record, but you might find something interesting there.) Not sure about the exact order, and I might have left some out (indeed, I am pretty sure I have). I will try to complete and extend the list as I go along. There is going to be no commenting or rating, and having read a book doesn’t necessarily mean I think it’s great. Most of them are, though. Books are awesome.
(Last update 2019-09-29)
Today is Saturday, 20 May 2017.
I am an Edinburgh-Zhejiang lecturer at the University of Edinburgh (UK). This weekend, I’m in London visiting my boyfriend. I have brought along my niece, who at the moment is living with me in Edinburgh for a high school semester abroad.
This is a day in my life.
I am sorry for not addressing you by name. I know that that’s not nice, and I know how it feels. Why do I know? Because you did not address me by name. You started your e-mail with some generic address, such as “Dear Professor” (which – by the way – is not my job title) or “Dear Sir” (which – by the way – is not my gender).
As many of my friends know (and some of them from awkward personal experience), I like walking around cemeteries. Cemeteries from the Austro-Hungarian monarchy are especially great, because you can learn a lot about the people buried there and the time they lived in. Not just names and dates and places of birth and death. Often, the headstone will also inform us about a person’s station in life, their job, their academic and professional titles. It will tell us, for instance, that the deceased was a Doctor of Philospohy. Or an officer for the royal-imperial postal service. Or a house owner’s widow. I love it.
I am spending a quarter of each year on the Haining International Campus of Zhejiang University, teaching in a joint Zhejiang/Edinburgh degree programme in Biomedical Sciences. A while ago, we were asked to provide suggestions for books to be added to the newly-to-be-established campus library. Of course, all the standard textbooks will be there, but it got me thinking about what other books I would consider valuable reads for budding biomedical scientists. And, more especially, what books I have enjoyed myself.
All happy PhDs are alike. Every unhappy PhD is unhappy in its own way.
There was a story in the Guardian not long ago about a young scientist who had supposedly found a dream PhD position, only to then find the lab ill-equipped, the supervisor under-prepared and the institution unsupportive.
Now, my own PhD was a happy experience (not just saying that because my supervisor is probably reading this. Hi Nicolas! But it really was.) But I have seen so many unhappy PhDs, and so many different ways in which a PhD can fail.