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Posts by camawise2004

CamAWiSE Careers Workshop: Unconscious Bias

Unconc Bias picsThe first CamAWiSE workshop – the careers series is returning for 2015 – was on the tricky subject of Unconscious Bias. Why tricky? Mainly because our biases are often unconscious or in other words in our subconscious without us being aware of them! Linda introduced us, in smaller groups, to some recent research which revealed that in a study by Corinne Moss-Racusin and colleagues (reported on in 2012) scientists were presented with application materials from a student applying for a lab manager position. Half the scientists were given the application with a male name and the other half with a female name attached. Results found that the female applicants were rated significantly lower than the males in competence, hirability and whether the scientist would be willing to mentor the student. Lower starting salaries were also offered to the “female” applicants.

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Professor Sharon Peacock – Lucy Cavendish Talks

This was part of the Science Festival programme and was held at Lucy Cavendish.
There was a disappointingly small audience for what was a fascinating and well-structured talk pitched for a generalist public about a subject we should all know more intimately.
My guess is that the title put people off ‘Melioidosis – the paddy field disease'; something more along the lines of ‘The disease to avoid when travelling in Thailand’ may have attracted more attention. Professor Peacock described this unfamiliar disease that is probably very under-recorded around the world as having symptoms which mimic those of many others, but which can result in death through generalised septicaemia. The bug is Burkholderia pseudomallei, closley related to the one that causes glanders in horses, which lives in soil and can be inhaled via dust – as with US veterans near helicopters – or can enter through open wounds when working under water, hence the epithet ‘paddy-field disease’, or when swimming in soil-contaminated water.

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Gender Equality in Science, Pathways to Success – by Pauline Matthews

It was an exceptional experience to be listening to such positive people at this event, held at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit on 10th March 2015. Every single speaker mentioned that the path to getting ahead, for women in Science, is not an easy one.

All of them talked about their families and some had photos of them too. We were getting to see people as whole people and not just ‘professionals’.

The speakers were both women and men. This, to me, was particularly engaging.  Of course we realise that gender issues affect men as well as women, but this is seldom brought into the open by men or society in general.  We were also reminded that gender equality is a complicated issue. The speakers all work or have worked in Cambridge. Read more

Speed-networking and speed-mentoring at WOW – by Pauline Matthews

There was a great buzz in the venue for Speed Mentoring at the WOW event on Sunday (8th March) and this was before we heard the whistle to signify the start.

A large room filled with mentors and mentees and the idea was to have a chat with a Mentor for fifteen minutes and then move on to the next one – this definitely was speedy! No getting too involved in the conversation as the whistle sounded every fifteen minutes. It is amazing what you can do in that length of time. The venue was set up in about eight circles of separate groups. Out of the four women I saw, two were scientists. Maybe not surprising in Cambridge. Many people seeking mentoring are seeking clarity.

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Wine, women and a twist of science – by Cathy Sorbara

Have you ever tried wasabi with Riesling? What about biting into a slice of lemon before sipping your Chardonnay?

The Cambridge AWiSE network welcomed the New Year in delectable fashion on January 27th with a Wine Tasting with a scientific twist. Held at the Cambridge Wine Merchants on Cherry Hinton Road, Alice Archer challenged our perception of food and wine pairing as well as helping us brush up on our chemistry.

She taught us that the sensory components of food – sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami — can influence the perception of flavours in the wine with which it is paired. For example, taste any wine and focus on its acidity level. Next, taste a strongly acidic food such as a lemon and afterwards re-taste the wine. The wine tastes much sweeter although the composition of the wine did not change at all. In the same respect, a wine which is particularly sweet, when paired with a sweet treat can appear more acidic. Food with high salt content, on the other hand, can magnify the perception of acidity in wine.

Our scientific background has instilled upon us that hypotheses can only be proven following rigorous testing. Therefore, we were forced to oblige Alice by sampling many delicious, high-quality wines with the large spread of cheese, charcuterie, bread, olives and sweets that were provided (and yes, even wasabi crackers and lemon wedges!).  Beginning with a sparkling Jansz Premium Rosé NV and ending with a Chateau des Tours 2008, each wine had its collection of admirers and foes. My personal favourite was the Meerlust Rubicon 2009 red wine from South Africa and I am now actively searching and stashing every 2009 South African wine that I can get a hold of.

The evening was filled with light-hearted discussion in superb company. Our sincere thanks to Alice for sharing her vast knowledge of wine interspersed with humour and mouth-watering meal pairing suggestions – you have started the 2015 Cambridge AWiSE year on a fantastic note!

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