Tuesday, 28 August 2007


One of my photos I had uploaded to Flickr has been used in an online travel guide called Schmap. The picture is of the Copenhagen jazz festival and has been included in the Schmap Copenhagen city guide.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Women in Science

Last week, I met with a woman from the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to discuss what opportunities there are for female scientists in the Netherlands and how NWO is supporting this. Although approximately 1/3 of PhD students are female, it is clear that for many women, their academic careers stop there. In the Netherlands, women hold approximately 25% of the academic staff positions in natural sciences (including biology, chemistry and physics), but less than 20% in engineering and technology departments. With a few exceptions (most notably Turkey and Portugal), the statistics are similar for other European countries and the USA.

Why are there not more women in academic positions? Having discussed this very question with friends and colleagues, there doesn’t appear to be a simple answer. It seems that many women are put off by the competitive environment and the aggressiveness that is needed to be successful in academia. Others feel that there is a lack of acceptance of female scientists, making it even harder for them to gain the recognition they deserve. Another common deterrent is the limited child-care facilities and support for women who want to have children and work full-time. For many women, there just doesn’t seem to be enough incentive to follow an academic career.

Universities are acknowledging these issues and making more of an effort to support and encourage female scientists and engineers in their education and vocation. At Delft University of Technology, the Delft Women in Science (DEWIS) network was established to provide mentoring and coaching as well as professional and personal development lectures and workshops to female students and staff members. With funding agencies such as NWO offering subsidies for female scientists and engineers, there is clearly an effort to provide more opportunities and better working conditions for female academics. It will be interesting to see if more women take advantage of such opportunities in the coming years.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Update - Second-class Citizen

After having my right to vote in Australian federal elections revoked, I sent a few emails to the Australian Electoral Commission expressing my disappointment in receiving the cancellation letter and the fact that I would not be able to vote in the upcoming election. The Divisional Returning Officer for my electorate responded to my email, reiterating the legislation but also commenting that he would consider extending my status if I was to apply in writing. Last week, I did just that, and this morning I received an email informing me that my extension has been approved! This means that I will be able to vote in the next federal election, which is expected to take place before the end of the year.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

One of my all time favourite recipes is another from Nigella's 'Forever Summer' book - Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova. Arguably the most quintessential Australian dessert, pavlova consists of a meringue base topped with whipped cream and fruit. While pavlova is usually a crowd pleaser, this chocolate variety is guaranteed to impress even the toughest critic.

For the chocolate meringue base:

6 egg whites
300g caster sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sieved
1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
50g dark chocolate, finely chopped

For the topping:

500ml double cream
500g raspberries
2-3 tablespoons coarsely grated dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Beat the egg whites until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cocoa and vinegar, and the chopped chocolate. Then gently fold everything until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in. Mound on to a baking sheet in a fat circle approximately 23cm in diameter, smoothing the sides and top. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 150 degrees Celsius and cook for about one to one and a quarter hours. When it's ready it should look crisp around the edges and on the sides and be dry on top, but when you touch the centre you should feel slightly soft. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and let the chocolate meringue cool completely.

When you are ready to serve, place on to a large, flat-bottomed plate. Whisk the cream till thick but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue, then scatter over the raspberries. Coarsely grate the chocolate into curls and sprinkle over the top.

Serves 8-10.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Second-class Citizen

My status as an overseas elector for Australian federal elections has been revoked! All Australians living in Australia must vote, but if you move to another country, then voting is no longer compulsory. I left Australia in 2001 and before doing so, applied to be an overseas elector. This gave me the right to vote in the federal elections via a postal vote that was distributed by the local embassy. However, the overseas elector status is only for a limited time period of up to 6 years. If you have not returned to Australia within that time frame, you have to re-register within the 3 months before the present 6 year term has expired. This extends your overseas elector status for only 1 more year. When I left Australia, I had not expected that I would still be living abroad 6 years later. Consequently, I didn't make any sort of note to remind myself to extend my overseas elector status. Now it seems that it is too late. Last week, I received a letter from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) Division of Bruce indicating that my registration as an overseas elector has been cancelled, although my enrolment as an ordinary elector is maintained. I am angry and frustrated that the AEC only sends such a letter after the expiration date. Couldn't they have sent me a reminder that my overseas elector eligibility was about to expire so that I could re-register in time? I am sure there are some people who pay more attention to such things, but I also believe that there are many Australians who have been denied the right to vote due to this absurd situation. In the latter case, many names have also been removed from the electoral role, which then requires the person to re-enrol after one month upon their return to Australia. Although I have chosen to live abroad, it doesn't mean that I have cut all ties from Australia - far from it, in fact. So why am I being made to feel like a second-class citizen?