Does the world really want more ‘#WomenInSTEM’?

You are forgiven for thinking you have heard it all before- it is because you have. There’s a skills gap (yawn), girls don’t like engineering (:-zzzzz) and what they really need is role models (please change the record!). What is surprising is that, for a bunch of scientists, we haven’t been very scientific in how we solve it. We have spent hundreds of millions of pounds on a number of well-intentioned campaigns, before doing the data collection and analysis- and we have had very little impact. Well, after ten years of working on Improving Gender Balance, the Institute of Physics are pretty proud of their results.

Read my blog at Science Grrl here.

Improving Gender Balance

What can girls do?  Check out my handy advice here.

What can business/ industry do? Check out my top tips here.

Read the IOP Reflections on Improving Gender Balance here.


I’ve started doodling rather than blogging. These have been well received,



NASA at the Science Museum, July 2016


WOW Talks, September 2016


London Special Leaders Award, July 2016



How Memories Are Made, Royal Institution, September 2016


What we cannot know, Royal Institution, October 2016


Ada Lovelace Day Live, October 2016


Epilepsy Explored, Kings Place, September 2016


Keeping The Magic Of Science Alive, June 2016



Sci Comm Social Careers Event, September 2016


IRIS Higgs Hunters Launch, September 2016


Open Lab “Do it Yourself Science”, September 2016


Sean Caroll, “The Big Picture”, Royal Institution, October 2016



Diversity In Tech/ Digital Science WiSTEM Spotlight



IRIS Meeting, 2016



Sci Comm Social, Media/ Journo Training, September 2016


Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life, IOP, October 2016


Science is Vital AGM, September 2016



TWINKLE Celebration, UCL, July 2016


Making Waves, IOP, September 2016


The Science of Stress, Royal Institution, October 2016



The Mechanics of the Metropolis, Laurie Winkless, IOP, September 2016




Operating at the Boundaries, Data 



Gravitons, Exotic Higgs Bosons, or nothing at all.. The LHC at 13 TeV


Euro Physics Forum, Getting the Diversity Right in Physics




Slides & Upcoming:

New slide set: download (STEM & CPE)

Upcoming adventures:

Saturday 5th Nov: 13:00 @ UCL – “Geology Open Day”

Monday 7th Nov: 18:30 @ Royal Institution – Astrobiology, the Truth is Out There (Jim Al khalili)

Tuesday 8th Nov: 17:30- Molecular Biophysics @ the Randall Centre, Guy’s Campus, New Hunt’s House, SE1 1UL (by London Bridge)

Tuesday 8th Nov: 18:30 Revolutionary science in the age of the guillotine, Royal Society (NO booking, turn up early)

Thursday 10th Nov: ALL DAY- WISE Campaign Conference

Weds 16th Nov: 18:30 @ IOP – Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who (+ annual dinner, they are invited if they are keen)

Thursday 17th Nov: 18:30 @ Royal Society – Our Window on the Universe  (NO booking, turn up early)

Tuesday 22nd Nov: 17:30 – Robotics with KCL Robotics society, Strand Campus, WC2R 2LS (by Temple)

Tuesday 22nd Nov: 17:00, Wimbledon High School Exoplanets Lecture QMUL

Wednesday 23rd Nov: 18:30, Royal Institution Operating at the boundaries: The science and art of getting things done

Thursday 24th Nov: Design Museum Opens

28th November: 18:30, Royal Institution “What’s the use of consciousness?”

30th November: Crime Lates at the Science Museum

30th November: 18:30 @ IOP – Human Colour Vision

1st December: 18:00 @ IET- Young Women Engineer of the Year Awards

7th December: 18:30 @ IOP “Detecting gravitational waves – a new window on the universe”


Engineer Our Future

I held my own Hackathon!

Engineer Our Future was a Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious Award winning event held at Imperial College London on 24 & 25 September, 2016. Over 50 students attended from 16 different state schools across London. Over the weekend the girls were presented with global engineering challenges, taught how to program by Imperial College students and graduates, then set-to-task in developing app-based solutions. The girls met many inspirational women working in STEM from across the scientific community, and they immensely enjoyed the opportunities to network with professionals and hear from current university students. The girls were never in front of a screen for too long: from campus tours, to hands-on water filtration workshops, to improvised comedy, this was a hackathon like no other. Anne-Marie Imafidon, head STEMette, hosted a panel discussion, where parents and girls heard from women working in range of engineering disciplines. The girls’ parents and teachers were invited in for a morning of technical sessions and discussion before watching their daughters took to the stage to present their incredible solutions. From a 100-person cake shaped like the Shard to a video game that helped map deforestation, this was a weekend no one will ever forget.

Don’t listen to me though, here is what two year 11s have to say: Shoumiya, Mill Hill County High School- “I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity, and cannot overstate how beneficial it was in improving my skills in coding and developing my interest for it.” Nicole Ho, Hendon School- “It was incredibly exciting to gain an insight into the careers in engineering, as well as the coding behind the life-changing technology that will surely shape our lives and the future of our planet. “

My slides for the event are here: eof-slides

My how-to guide for holding a hackathon is here: How to guide

ViCE PHEC with the IOP

The looming threat of the government’s proposed Teaching Excellence Framework has left some universities wriggling, with funding being linked to quality rather than quantity of education. For some, this is of no concern: they have got a well-supported, well-respected group of teaching fellows who proactively campaign for the student experience. The Variety in Chemistry Education/ Physics Higher Education Conference (‘ViCEPHEC’) celebrates these people. I attended as I’m determined for undergraduates to get the most out of their education, I want more people working in physics (not investment banks) and I’m keen to find how teaching innovation translates to the school environment.

ViCE PHEC covers a range of interesting themes and wonderful ideas that make you so happy education exists. Much to my surprise there are whole departments with real-life PhD students researching education and even UK-based academic educational journals for teachers and researchers. Heads-up if you’re just finishing a PhD looking to get in to higher-ed research: in studies you can get away with a much smaller sample size, and you’ll likely get the keynote spot at a teaching conference. Whilst physicists were physically outnumbered by the chemists, with less interactive 3D molecular models, we weren’t any less engaged, and the higher education group of the IOP met a day early to formulate our plan.

Improve Labs: A big proportion of talks are from university groups using laboratories to promote scientific thinking. It became evident that to make sure undergraduates benefit from their time in undergraduate labs, they must do more than try to confirm known results. There are some universities who have really invested in teaching labs; employing dedicated lab coordinators and they see big improvements in the dreaded student satisfaction surveys (NSS). Labs can be structured so that errors/uncertainties are not what you Google frantically before a lab deadline and instead of storage rooms for broken multimeters, they become places to encourage group-work and enquiry.

School vs. University: There is comparison between graduate and secondary school teaching, where you may have an undergraduate degree in your discipline but (crucially) you’re taught how to teach. In universities, the lecturers are the experts in their disciplines, but not taught pedagogy or explicitly “how to teach”. The students change their study approaches too, recognizing that there is less guidance and they need more motivation and administration. Could teachers integrate decreasing levels of support into year 13? Can sixth form students become independent scientific researchers, who contribute to the academic community and learn how to be self-sufficient in a lab?

How can researchers support and improve exams and assessment?

  • Do multiple choice questions encourage “What” not “Why”?
  • Instead of marking numerical answers and calculator confidence, could we evaluate model-making and diagram skills?
  • Could ‘talking-mark schemes’ and self-assessment improve student expectations and study practice?

There’s some innovative/ terrifying way of students evaluating their teachers: from coded free-text on post-it notes to the real-time geographical anonymous social network “YikYak”.

Particularly impressive is that lots of the research has been carried out by summer project, MSc and postgraduate students, developed by students for students.

The extortionate student fees are making undergraduates more demanding. If they’re paying for it, should undergraduates should get what they “want”? Should physics departments be responsible for the delivery of professional skills courses to a next-generation of investment bankers?

One of my favourite talks was Ian Bearden from the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. In a matter of minutes, he had the whole lecture theatre on their feet playing with pendulums. Bearden points out that students can get everything they want online (particularly appropriate after MIT’s recent open publication of all their teaching materials), downloading free lectures with the click of a button. Universities have to offer something different: a community of scholars who can welcome and develop inquisitive minds.