Combining Academia and Motherhood

There is often a lot of doom and gloom in Academia. People discuss the workload, the work-life balance, and the difficulty in taking maternity leave or having a family. For example, this recent piece in The Guardian highlights one professor’s less-than-positive experience of having children as an academic. The Times Higher Ed writes about the leaky pipeline, often attributed to the difficulty in balancing motherhood and an academic career.

However, I believe that, while there are often difficulties, I think there are also reasons to be positive in Academia. In my opinion, in terms of family life, Academia is no worse than, and in many places better than, most other professional careers. There are advantages and disadvantages in an academic career when it comes to family life, but in many ways they are similar to the challenges faced by many professional women across a spectrum of careers. Many of these are societal, rather than academic, issues. I would hate a young, promising academic to be put off just because they only perceive the negative aspects. Continue reading

The Pregnant Field Scientist

Last autumn, I had two great pieces of news. The first was that I had been awarded a small grant to conduct three weeks’ fieldwork in Chile. The second was that I was pregnant.

I was obviously immediately interested in other people’s stories about fieldwork while pregnant. I could find only a few blogs about it on the internet, so I thought I would write about my own experiences of fieldwork while pregnant.

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How to get a funded PhD studentship

A position on a funded PhD studentship in the environmental sciences (including Geography and Geology) has never been easy, but in these days of funding cuts and university and RCUK (Research Council UK) reorganisations, it’s ever more difficult to get PhD funding. It’s competetive and every studentship may have hundreds of applicants. Here’s a guide on how to maximise your chances.

The following advice is most applicable to early career researchers wishing to pursue a PhD in Physical Geography or Geology, but hopefully some of it at least is more widely relevant! Continue reading

In defence of reticence

Occasionally, comments on this website call me reticent. I think that this is because I try not to let my personal opinions cloud my professional, scientific judgement. I am proud to be reticent. I always try to be informative, to give values of uncertainties and ranges and assessments of confidence. I try to present both sides of the story, while always relying on peer-reviewed papers published in reputable scientific journals. I try to let the evidence speak for itself. Continue reading

My 2013 year in review

It is a good idea, at the close of one year, to review the past 12 months and to reflect on accomplishments, skills developed and lessons learned. Inspired by similar posts by Jon Tennant and Martin Eve, I thought that I would also write a summary of my activities and achievements in 2013, just for my own benefit. Hopefully others will follow suit and we can all congratulate each other! Continue reading

How to get a post-doc

Why do I need a post-doctoral position?

In an era when PhD students are rising in number and the amount of highly qualified early career scientists is huge, competition for post-docs are intense. These fixed-term research positions, which can be thought of as apprenticeships, are essential for scientists wishing to move to permanent positions in research leading universities. Lectureships at good universities seem to require at least 5 years of post-doc experience, at least 10 first-author publications in strong journals, a significant amount of grant income, and ideally a prestigious independent research fellowship. Continue reading

Writing up a PhD thesis

At some point in the journey to the PhD, it is time to stop experimentation, stop data collection, stop fieldwork, and consider how to convert this huge pile of data into a PhD. It’s not easy. No one said it would be easy. But it is achievable. Here are some coping strategies that I used when I was writing up – and still use today – that might be useful to anyone contemplating a large writing project, be that undergraduate or masters’ dissertation or a PhD. Continue reading

It’s good to be a little bit nervous

Public speaking is a big part of any academic’s job (and many other jobs, come to that). Crippling nerves are debilitating, and can inhibit a speaker’s flow and presence. If you suffer from severe nerves in this way, the best advice I can give you is to a) seek professional guidance on public speaking, and b) to practise and do it often. Continue reading

Fellowships, models and outreach

So long and thanks for all the fish

Each year, SCAR (the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research) awards a few fellowships to young researchers, to allow them to visit another university and collaborate with a new team. I was lucky enough to be awarded one in 2012, which I took up this winter. And now, after six months at the Antarctic Research Centre (ARC), Victoria University of Wellington, my SCAR Fellowship is over and it is time to head home, back to Aberystwyth. Continue reading