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Women in Science

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Video clip: At the end of her first year of her doctorate, Alison got to spend some time in Canada, which introduced her to new ways of learning that contrasted with the experiences at Oxford.

And at the end of my first year in Oxford, largely at the suggestion of my college tutor, I went off to Canada as a Rhodes Foundation scholar and that was great because Oxford is a wonderful place to be but you do need to get out after a while. Oxford academic life has changed hugely since then but then it was very, what's the word, choreographed somehow, you could go to a seminar and everybody would sit very quietly and at the end of the seminar you could ask questions and it was all very formal.

And I got to Canada and in the front row of the seminar was one of the most distinguished people I knew, who was someone I'd just heard of, I'd read his books and he'd sit in the front row and suddenly he said 'now I'm probably being really stupid here but..', and he'd interrupt early on and then there was a young man who I wrote a, subsequently wrote a paper with which is even on the desk as I'd shown it to one of my graduate student, as it turns out it's still relevant. He actually wrote my first paper and I think that's the paper that got me a job so of course I'm very grateful but in the middle of each seminar he'd sort of say 'actually can I just make sure I'm understanding what's going on' and he would precis what had happened up to that point.

So having had a year in Oxford understanding nothing at any seminar suddenly I had somebody getting me up to speed half way through and that was incredibly helpful. So it was an eye opener I learned how to speak French, I learnt that academics can interrupt in seminars, I learnt a very different sort of style.