Poster campaign

The Biology Equality and Diversity committee has begun a poster campaign to emphasise that the School of Biology actively welcomes and promotes diversity among staff and students. Posters have been placed at the entrance to every school building. 


Athena Swan application highlight: Committee turnover policy

Committee turnover policy (excerpt from our submission)                             

Goal: unbiased representation for committee members and chairs

Action: Development of an advisory tenure for committee chairs (3-5 years dependent on committee) and policy for opening up positions to new applicants:

  1. Advertisement by email and/or weekly newsletter.
  2. Explicit consideration of full staff list (to avoid implicit bias) and encouragement (via email) of individuals to apply.
  3. Final decision based on consideration of workload model and gender makeup.

We have improved gender balance throughout several committees, with 4 female:5 male committee chairs (2016) compared to 1 female:8 male chairs (2014).

Management group composition (which consists of committee chairs and research centre directors) has changed from 5 female:9 male (2015) to 7 female:7 male (2017).

Athena Swan application highlight: Unconscious bias

Unconscious bias (excerpt from our submission)

In 2016 we increased frequency of monitoring of staff training completion, sending bi-monthly reminders to staff who had not undertaken relevant modules. We have increased uptake:

  • Bias training increased from 17% (2015) to 76% (2017) of the School (now including PhD students). “very useful and eye-opening…has had positive impacts on my understanding of fairness” – feedback from postgraduate student.
  • Recruitment training increased from 43% (2015) to 100% (2017) of academic staff.

New interview refresher: prior to convening interview panels for staff and student recruitment, BE&D chair requests staff involved to review the university website about unconscious bias and to watch two short videos about bias:

Royal Society video: Understanding Unconscious Bias

EU Institucio CERCA video: Recruitment Bias in Research Institutes

Refreshing just prior to interviewing is a really good idea“ – feedback from male Professor.

Insight Interview Series – Dr Verena Dietrich-Bischoff

Dr Verena Dietrich-Bischoff, an associate lecturer in Biology, has taken part in the Insight Interview Series, a monthly interview series by the Student Physics Society designed to promote links between staff and students.  Verena discusses how she became involved in teaching in St Andrews, her career path and fieldwork experiences, as well as non-academic matters.

The interview can be found here.


UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science lecture

Our (postponed) inaugural public lecture celebrating the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science, entitled “Ageing Healthily”, was presented by Professor Dame Linda Partridge, on 10 November in the Byre Theatre. Researchers, students and members of the public alike were welcomed to this fascinating talk on the biology of ageing. Before the lecture, Professor Partridge met with early career researchers to discuss life in science, and a reception after the lecture provided an informal question and answer time. The lecture can be viewed below.


The 2018 United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science public lecture will be presented by Professor Eleanor Riley on 23 February in the Byre Theatre. Her talk is entitled “Combatting Malaria”.

Explorathon 2017

Explorathon returned to St Andrews on Friday 29th September and it was a huge success!


Explorathon is an extravaganza of discovery, debate and entertainment that takes place on European Researchers’ Night at universities throughout Scotland. University of St Andrews researchers from the across the Arts, Humanities and Sciences put on a spectacular evening of activities, open to all. It is a major event on the public engagement calendar and was hugely successful, drawing vast numbers of attendees to explore climate change, dig up archaeology, go on torchlight tours of the Bell Pettigrew Museum and much more.


School of Biology researchers were well represented in the diverse shows and research fair that Explorathon had to offer. For example, the How We Think: From Animals to AI panel discussion, chaired by Dr Katrina Falkenberg, explored intelligence, cognition, culture and problem solving across the animal kingdom and beyond. Prof Sue Healy described her research in bird cognition (pictured), alongside Dr Amanda Seed, Prof Ian Gent, Dr Luke Rendell and Prof Andy Whiten. Researchers from SMRU delivered the activity, SNAP!, in which participants could have a go at identifying individual whales, dolphins and seals using photographs and natural markings. Kevin Laland gave a talk on his latest book, Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony, winner the BPS Book Award for Academic Monograph. A diverse team of brave academics delivered Bright Club – academic standup comedy – with Helen Spence-Jones performing her debut alongside seasoned comedian Dr Kate Cross and four others. Another popular show was the XX factor, an audience-judged competition in which female researchers pitch their work in 3 minutes. Brittany Jones (Biology) won the day-time schools competition, Frances Entwistle (Biology) brought home gold in the evening competition and Fiona Macfarlane won the online competition (Mathematics and Statistics).


Visit the Explorathon website for the full program of events.

The SOI Early Careers Network welcome day

Over the summer of 2017, young scientists at the Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI) set up an early careers network (ECN) within the department to discuss project ideas, share resources and learn from others’ experiences within research. The group has been incredibly successful, with over 50 members on the mailing list and meetings once or twice a week to address whatever our members feel they currently need help with, providing a responsive support system with a relaxed, friendly environment.


Last week we held a welcome day for all the new post doctoral researchers, PhD and Masters Students arriving at the SOI in St Andrews this autumn. Our afternoon meeting aimed to give people a feel of a typical weekly discussion session, and 20 people came along to talk about academic writing, from its challenges to top tips for maximising productivity. In the evening we then held an informal meet and greet in a local St Andrews pub, giving everyone a chance to properly introduce themselves. The two events were very successful and hopefully the ECN will be a great source of feedback, help or new friends for all the early career scientists starting at the SOI this academic year!


If you are interested in coming along to our meetings, please let us know. We have a website that features all the details of our upcoming meetings, or you can email Kelly Robinson or Izzy Langley to be added to the mailing list.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science public lecture

To celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we welcome you to a public lecture by Professor Dame Linda Partridge:

Ageing Healthily: Extending Lifespans and Improving Health

Friday 10 November, 1pm at the Byre Theatre

(Rescheduled from February)

As human lifespans increase, age is proving to be a major risk factor for diseases such as cancer and in cardiovascular and neurodegenerative conditions. Genetic and environmental interventions can extend lifespan and improve health during ageing, and dietary restriction and reduced activity of nutrient-sensing signaling networks can ameliorate the effects of ageing in various organisms, possibly including humans. But understanding how to do this with fewest side-effects is crucial. This talk will discuss some of the recent discoveries, including the prospect for re-purposing existing drugs to protect against the effects of ageing.

Professor Dame Linda Partridge is co-founder of the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing and member of the Institute of Healthy Ageing at University College London. She holds a long list of honours, including Fellowship of the Royal Society, election to the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Linnean Society of London’s Darwin-Wallace Medal, and a DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire). In 2009, she was announced as one of the UKRC’s six Women of Outstanding Achievement in Science, Engineering and Technology.

The talk is free, but ticketed. Tickets are available from the Byre Box Office online, via telephone (01334 475000) or email (, or from admin staff in the Harold Mitchell/Dyers Brae (Lianne Baker/Katrina Falkenberg), SOI (Jane Williamson) and the BMS (Andy Cole). We welcome researchers, students and members of the public alike.

The talk will be introduced by the University Principal, Sally Mapstone, and celebrates the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Each year, the School of Biology’s Equality and Diversity Committee will host a public lecture that highlights the work of an eminent biologist to celebrate some of the outstanding science being done by women.

Early career researchers are invited to meet with Professor Partridge before the talk. Please contact Katrina Falkenberg ( if interested.

Royal Society 2017 URF Success

Two of our postdoctoral researchers, Ellen Garland and Lauren Guillette, were awarded Royal Society University Research Fellowships in this year’s competition.  This is a fantastic achievement for the department to receive two of these prestigious awards.  Lauren has now accepted an offer of a permanent post as an Assistant Professor of Comparative Cognition and Behaviour at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada (starting in July 2018) and so had to decline her fellowship.  Ellen has accepted the award and will continue her research here in St Andrews on the cultural transmission of vocal behaviours, vocal learning and geographic variation in vocalisations.