Annual report

The annual equality and diversity report is completed for 2018. The report provides an overview of staff composition, workload, recruitment and seminar series speakers.  The composition of the School of Biology is broadly stable, with a slow trend to increasing representation of women in senior roles (Professor).  Patterns in overall workload and and its components (research, teaching, service) are documented based on anonymised workload model data to guide senior management in ensuring appropriate distribution of roles, and that aspects of workload that vary among roles and genders are appropriately recognised and credited.  Seminar series are beginning to approach gender parity, with the benefits of close monitoring beginning to become evident.

The Biology E&D officer’s annual report 2018 can be viewed here (for St Andrews staff only).


The Athena SWAN journey: sharing top tips and best practice from Gold departmental award holders

On 11th June 2019, we held a workshop to share and promote best practice between institutions and departments applying for Athena SWAN awards.

Three Athena SWAN Gold Award Holders spoke about their Athena SWAN journey:

Dr Caroline Dessent, Department of Chemistry, University of York (Gold 2007, 2010, 2015, 2018 – the UK’s longest Gold Award holder) (lecture available here).

Dr Cindy Gray, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow (Bronze 2014, Silver 2015, Gold 2017) (lecture available here).

Professor Helen Sang, The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh (Bronze 2012, Silver 2014, Gold 2017) (lecture available here).

The workshop was well attended both within the University (with representatives from 12 departments across Arts, Science and Medicine Faculties) and also several attendees from the wider Scottish Athena SWAN network (University of Glasgow, Marine Scotland).

“Despite some criticism of the Athena Swan process as burdensome and bureaucratic, there is widespread agreement that it has achieved remarkable progress in improving working environments across the country.  Rightly, we are moving consideration of these issues away from gender and women, and more towards equality and fairness for everyone,” said Prof Sascha Hooker, hosting the workshop.

Only eleven UK Departments hold Gold Awards, and so getting speakers from three in one place was considered quite a coup! We heard tips from the top as speakers outlined their journey and many of their initiatives, things that had worked and things that had not.  All in the audience were seen busily scribbling down ideas and there was a definite sense that we were all benefitting (speakers included)!

Talks during the morning were followed by a panel session during the afternoon.  This gave us a chance to talk about many of the issues that we all face, including:

– difficulties in attracting staff and increasing BAME representation in small towns

– mentoring and networking initiatives for Professional and Support Staff

– flexible working and the stigma that can be attached to this

– differences between teaching departments and research institutes in terms of autonomy

– workload stress and mental health

– mentoring burdens associated with gender sensitivity


Overall, participants agreed that it was an incredibly valuable session sharing a lot of good practice.

“It was brilliant – thank you for organising this workshop” feedback from male lecturer.

We are very grateful for support from Wellcome ISSF Equality and Diversity funds, which allowed us to host this workshop.


L to R: Sascha Hooker, Helen Sang, Caroline Dessent, Cindy Gray



The Athena SWAN journey: top tips and best practice from Gold Award holders

The school of Biology is organising a workshop to share top tips and best practice with three Gold Athena Swan Award holders.


The Athena SWAN journey: top tips and best practice from Gold Award holders

Tuesday 11 June 2019, 10 am – 3 pm

Arts Lecture Theatre


The School of Biology invites you to attend this workshop to hear three Athena SWAN Gold Award holders (Department of Chemistry at the University of York, Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, and The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh) talk about their  Athena SWAN journey, give us their tips and share best practice.

This event will be useful to help identify steps that we could and should be taking to promote equality and diversity at St Andrews. E&D representatives, committee members and interested staff are welcome to attend.

See the full programme and register for a place at the workshop here.

St Andrews PRIDE

St Andrews PRIDE is Fife’s longest-running LGBT+ pride procession, and is now in its fourth year. The event has grown year on year, and will be followed by a reception event in the Students’ Association.  This year’s event begins at 1pm on Saturday 20th April.

The procession will commence from the Students Association, and proceed via North, South, Church and Market Streets to the Students’ Association. On arrival at the Association, we will be greeted by national charities, community organisations and local businesses, as well as live music (and a bar!). The reception event should end around 4:30pm.

It is a great opportunity for the community to enjoy themselves and support the LGBT+ people living and working locally. Last year’s event was a great success, but this year, thanks to the creativity and tireless efforts of our committee, it promises to be a real joy – the tone is one of positivity, celebration, and non-judgemental fun. It is the job of Saints LGBT+ to create spaces where all members of the St Andrews community are able to express themselves and know that they will be welcomed and respected – we take great pride in seeing this happen.

If you would like to march in the parade please bring along a banner. Please RSVP to with approximate numbers if you would like to attend.

Careers session for PhD and postdocs

We ran another successful postgraduate and postdoctoral careers session during this year’s postgraduate conference on 19 March. Unfortunately two of our (male) speakers had to cancel at the last minute, but our remaining three speakers did an excellent job:

Chance favours the prepared mind: Careers in and from Biology
Karen McGregor, University of St Andrews
PhD – Microbiology (University of Western Australia)
Current – Equality and Diversity Awards Adviser at the University of St Andrews

Public Engagement with Research – career boost, sanity mode and exit strategy
Alina Loth, University of St Andrews
PhD – Marine Biology (University of St Andrews)
Current – Public Engagement Officer for Science at the University of St Andrews

Enjoy the Journey
Sara Rankin, Imperial College London
PhD – Pharmacology (Kings College, London)
Current – Professor of Leukocyte and Stem Cell Biology at Imperial College London

Speakers showed the multitude of career paths available from a Biology PhD or postdoc. Feedback for the session was positive with several comments such as “interesting finding out different career paths that speakers have taken”, “I honestly think this session was very well organised and would love to see a similar session next year”, “Nice to have a reality check like this once in a while! Great to have some context and “zoom out”.”

This year, speakers also recommended various web-based resources for students/post-docs to look at such as:

Lecture on Neurodiversity, Prof. Sara Rankin

Prof. Sara Rankin from Imperial College London delivered a lecture on ‘Why higher education needs to increase awareness of neurodiversity’ on 20 March 2019. This was hosted by the Biology Equality and Diversity committee, and organised by postgraduate student member Jessica Haghkerdar.

Prof. Sara Rankin is a Professor of Leukocyte and Stem Cell Biology at Imperial College London. She is a world leader in the field of regenerative pharmacology- inventing drugs to help the body repair itself after injury. She is lead for Athena for the National Heart and Lung Institute and chairs the Faculty of Medicine’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee. In 2016 she was awarded the Imperial College Medal for outstanding service to the College and innovation in research and public engagement.

Prof Sara Rankin is dyslexic and dyspraxic and in recent years has been working on a project, 2eMPower, to make STEM education (in schools and HE) accessible for students with specific learning disabilities (dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism). She trained as a dyslexia champion (accredited by the British Dyslexia Association) and in this role considers how employers and managers can create a working environment that supports neurodiverse staff and gets the best out of them.

The lecture explained the strengths and weaknesses associated with being neurodiverse and how this affects student learning and staff in the workplace. She described why she thinks being dyslexic makes her an excellent scientist and how businesses are now recognising the value of neurodiversity in the workplace. She discussed her experiences of establishing 2eMPOwerUK to develop and deliver STEM outreach programmes for high ability students with learning differences and how she is making teaching at Imperial accessible to all students.

The lecture can be viewed in full here.

Early career researcher Q&A session with Prof. Terrie Williams

Our Q&A event for early-careers researchers, following the International Day of Women and Girls in Science public lecture, was widely appreciated by the range of students and postdoctoral researchers who attended. The event was led by Prof. Kevin Laland, and questions were directed to Prof. Terrie Williams and Prof. Sascha Hooker. Some of the comments received from the participants are shown below.

Really interesting panel. Good advice given”, male postgraduate taught student

Absolutely fantastic”, female postgraduate research student

Having two perspectives is really useful” female postgraduate research student

Thank you so very much for organising this event! I learned a lot, and got a lot of ideas for my future! Thank you!”, female postgraduate research student

International Day of Women and Girls in Science public lecture 2019

On 5 February 2019, we celebrated the International Day of Women and Girls in Science with a public lecture from invited speaker Professor Terrie Williams. The lecture ‘Narwhal Nights: Discoveries Along The Scientific Road Less Travelled’ was a free event. Professor Lorna Milne, Master of the United College, introduced Professor Williams and the importance of such events at the University of St Andrews. Professor Clare Peddie, Head of the School of Biology, closed the event. The lecture was very well attended by members of the public, University staff and students, as well as pupils from St Leonards School and Waid Academy. Secondary school students met with Professor Williams for a ‘meet and greet’ lunch before the lecture, and early career researchers from across the University science schools participated in an informal careers in science Q&A after the lecture. We received extremely positive feedback (via feedback forms and comments after the event), for example:

“Amazing and inspirational talk. Wonderful to have these open to the wider community!”

“So enjoyable and inspiring to hear someone so passionate and knowledgeable.”

“Very inspiring lady, talk and message. Would love more of these talks :)”


The lecture can be viewed below.


Professor Williams designed and produced stunning science journals that were gifted to all lecture attendees, in addition to a ‘Careers in Biology’ bookmark and an eco-pen.

Many thanks to Katrina Falkenberg for organising the event, to Professor Terrie Williams for her inspiring talk, to Professor Lorna Milne and Professor Clare Peddie for introducing and closing the lecture, and to the volunteers who collected and processed the feedback forms. We look forward to next year’s lecture!

Careers bookmark

During the International Day of Women and Girls in Science lecture today the Biology Equality and Diversity Committee will be distributing bookmarks highlighting a new webpage discussing some of the careers options for school students, undergraduates, and postgraduates studying biology. The webpage has been designed by E&D Committee members, in conjunction with others in the School/University who have experience of offering career advice. In addition we have included a short section highlighting the work of the E&D committee and a ‘biology for all’ section.

The webpage can be found here or at the short link



Watch ‘Narwhal Nights’ lecture online

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science will be marked by a public lecture by Professor Terrie Williams:

Narwhal Nights: Discoveries Along The Scientific Road Less Travelled

Tuesday 5th February 2019, 1pm at the Byre Theatre. More details can be found here.

Unfortunately tickets for the event sold out quickly, but if you don’t already have a ticket, you can still watch the lecture as it will be live streamed online.

Alternatively you can drop by the Byre Theatre box office five minutes before the lecture to claim any uncollected tickets.

Please note any unclaimed tickets will be released if they are not collected within five minutes of the start time. If you have a ticket but won’t be able to use it, please return it to the Byre Theatre so someone else can attend.

A video of the lecture will be available on the BE&D website after the event.