Athena SWAN


At UCL Chemistry we are dedicated to the Athena SWAN Charter for women in science, recognising commitment to advancing women’s careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research.Here at UCL we have a long history of fighting for equality and diversity. UCL was famously the first university in 1826 to admit students of any race or religious or political beliefs. Later, in 1878, UCL was the first to accept women on equal terms with men and in 1893 UCL was the first in England to establish a students’ union. Furthermore, the Chemistry Department was a pioneer for teaching, establishing one of the first British professorships in 1828.

Over 180 years later that drive for equality is ever present; the Chemistry Department was awarded an Athena SWAN bronze award in 2014 and will be submitting an application for an Athena SWAN silver award later this year.

The equality and diversity group at UCL Chemistry is particularly directed toward:

  • Being a part of the Athena SWAN Charter, addressing the under representation of women in science by challenging existing protocols and attitudes.
  • Addressing gender inequalities and imbalance, in particular the underrepresentation of women in senior roles.
  • Improving the representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students within higher education.

An Athena SWAN Bronze Department awards recognise that in addition to university-wide policies the department is working to promote gender equality and to address challenges particular to the discipline. The equality and diversity group at UCL Chemistry aims to develop and encourage commitment to combating underrepresentation, in particular the advancement of the careers of women in STEMM research and academia. In alignment with the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) the equality and diversity group at UCL Chemistry aim to transform existing cultures and make a real impact on the lives of staff and students.

What is it?

Launched in July 2005, the Athena SWAN recognises and celebrates good practice on recruiting, retaining and promoting women in SET (Science, Engineering and Teachnology) in higher education.

UCL has been awarded the Bronze Award.  This award recognises that the University overall has a solid foundation (the policies, practices, systems and arrangements) for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that valies all staff.  At Bronze University lever, the focus is on:

  • The action already taken and planned which demonstrated the University's commitment at a senior level of the 6 Athena SWAN Principles; and
  • The journey to which the University has committed itself in order to achieve a significant improvement in women's representation and career progression in SET, with:

    • An identified starting point
    • the resources needed
    • people to lead and support, and
    • the means to monitor its progress (e.g. the action plan).

Since the launch of the award, 4 UCL Departments have received Silver awards from the Athena SWAN Charter. The departments are: Chemical Engineering, Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, the MRC Laboratory for Molecular & Cell Biology and the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences.

The Department 

The Chemistry Department at UCL has 56 full-time members of academic staff, over 300 undergraduate students, approximately 161 graduates (mainly studying for PhD Degree) and over 100 research staff.   The department was ranked 2nd in the UK (out of 37 departments) for the world-class impact of its research in the 2014 REF Exercise.

Both students and staff in the department are from diverse professional and international backgrounds, and the department has a culture of inclusiveness with a unified sense of purpose in recognising the issues and improving gender balances. Some initiatives have been in place for years which have a strong, continuing commitment to support staff while new ones are being introduced to try and improve and support gender balances.

The University has a Faculty Structure, of which the department is part of MAPS (Mathematical and Physical Sciences).

In 2010, the department strategy included a clear statement on equalities issues, championed particularly by the Head of Department, Professor Ivan Parkin, who has led the bid for the Bronze Award.


UCL has an Athena SWAN Working Group. In addition, the Chemistry Department has set up a Self Assessment Team (SAT) which identifies and addresses gender and ethnicity issues within the department so that all staff can reach their full potential.

The SAT looked at data collected by UCL to explore what could be learned. Its recommendations were implemented immediately and continue in practice today.

In (YEAR) Helen Fielding participated in the publication of "Planning for Success: Good practice in University Science Departments" which looked at Work Life Balance. This described Helen's life as a working mother in HE.

Helen Fielding

Professor of Physical Chemistry at University College London (UCL)

After a degree at Cambridge, a Dphil from Oxford, 3 months as a junior scientist at the National Physical Laboratory and 18 months post-doc in Amsterdam, Helen returned to the UK in 1994 to a lectureship at King's College London. She was promoted to reader in 1997, and professor in 1992. She moved to UCL in 1993 where she established a very well-equipped ultrafast laser science facility. She is a recipient of the Harrison, Marlow and Corday-Morgan medals of the RSC, and was rather pleasantly surprised to be awarded the Mosely medal by the IOP earlier this year.

After returning to the UK in 1994, Helen married and had two children, who are now 10 and 7. Her husband is Head of Measurement R&D at LGC in Teddington and they live in South London. They both commute about an hour to work - in opposite directions! During the school term, life at home is pretty hectic, but fun. After playing in the park, swimming, taking the children to sport and music activities, and attending various events, there is little extra time for anything else. In the holidays it is nice to escape from London as a whole family for activities such as walking in the Lake District.

In 2004 both Claire Carmalt and Ivan Parkin participated in the publication of "Good Practice in University Departments",

©The Royal Society of Chemistry and the Athena Project 2004. They explored the issues of career progression, the structural barriers in chemistry and HE and the constraints on individuals which made it difficult even for the best departments to appoint and retain the small number of women chemists in the supply chain. The experiences of these two academics with different trajectories to their present positions near or at the top of the academic career ladder are highlighted. Their experiences, and the influence of opportunity, location and luck recounted by others who contributed to this study.

Claire Carmalt

Reader in Inorganic Chemistry at University College London (UCL)

Claire took her first degree in 1992 at Newcastle and completed her PhD there in two and a half years in order to take up a post-doc in Austin, Texas. Working there for an FRS, getting a new lab and running for him, in a different culture where she was younger than colleagues at the same stage, was vulnerable, as was the number of papers she wrote and co-authored. Knowing how few posts were available in the UK, Claire applied for and was awarded a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin fellowship which she took up at University College in 1997. There, with lab space, and office and opportunity to do some teaching, Claire has been well supported by three heads of department. While on her research fellowship she got through her three year probation and became and accredited teacher. UCL offered her a lectureship in 1998 to start in 2001 at the end of her fellowship. In 2002 she became a senior lecturer and a reader in 2004. She came back from maternity leave at the beginning of the 2002 academic year not having written all the papers she planned. However, she did have a colleague who looked after her group and now has a colleague who covers her late labs which do not fit college day nursery hours. Claire juggles a child, with whom she shares a longish commute by train, and a husband (a chemist in industry) which a tedious commute in the opposite direction. She hasn't attended as many conferences as she used to. Her strike rate on grant applications has slowed down, and although she managed this summer to catch up on her paper writing she expects a slow down with new people in her lab not yet ready to publish. For Claire the future balance of her priorities, her family, her research and her career progression, is not absolutely clear.

Ivan Parkin

Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at University College London (UCL)

A duel career family, Ivan has a wife who is also an academic chemist, a daughter of eleven, and a son of nine. After a first degree and PhD at Imperial and a NATO fellowship in the States, Ivan took a temporary lecturer post at the Open University. With grants from Leverhulme and EPSRC, two post-docs and a prolific publication record he was offered a lecturer appointment at UCL, but fond getting his laboratory established there hard going as a probationary lecturer with a full time teaching load. He turned a serendipitous contact with Pilkington Glass into a valuable established relationship. Promotion to senior lecturer in 1997, then reader and, in 2000, professor, with a continuing high publication rate now makes it somewhat easier to sustain his research funding. Ivan is not sure if his career would have progressed as it did, had his daughter arrived before he became professor.

Self Assessment Team

Self Assessment Team.

The SAT consists of the following members from Chemistry:-

Nicola Best

Nicola Best

Nicola has worked at UCL since 2001 in various departments and joined the Department of Chemistry in 2011 as the Executive Assistant to the Head of Department.  She has a flexible working arrangement and works from home two days per week.  In her spare time she likes walking her dog, exploring new countries and is a keen photographer. 

Marion Bartlett-Brooks

Marion Bartlett-Brooks

Marion is a PhD student jointly funded and supported by UCL and Uppsala Universitet, Sweden.   Her research involves using numerical methods and classical spin models to simulate magnetic materials and to study their phase behaviour.  Besides research, she is an appointed member of the Inclusion and Diversity committee for the Royal Society of Chemistry and has been involved in numerous public engagement events related in science e.g. “CEPMaBC Be a Polymath” and the “Royal Society Summer exhibition”. In all of this, Marion finds it is important to create an inclusive and diverse environment for people to work, study and engage.  

Jadranka Butorac

Jadranka Butorac

Jadranka completed her PhD in Physical Chemistry at UCL.   She really enjoyed working at UCL, and was very glad to have an opportunity to help postgraduate students through her new role as Teaching and Learning Administrator for Postgraduate Students here in the department.   The working atmosphere in the General Office is really family friendly therefore Jadranka can combine her full time job with her family commitments. 

Daren Caruana

Daren Caruana

Daren was born in Malta and mostly educated in the UK.  He graduated with a PhD in electrochemistry from the University of Southampton.  After holding postdoctoral positions at the University of Malta, University of Texas, Austin, and at UCL he settled in London.  He has been engaged in teaching and research at UCL since 1999. He is currently a Reader in Physical Chemistry.  He is a father to two young boys and a carer for his wife. 

Caroline Knapp

Caroline Knapp

Caroline E. Knapp graduated from University College London (UCL) in 2006 and remained at the institution to complete her PhD in 2010 in the field of precursor design and analysis with Professors Claire J. Carmalt and Paul F. McMillan. Following this she worked on highly reactive main group chemistry, particularly the isolation of low valent group 14 compounds and their subsequent reactivity at UC Davis, CA, with Professor Phil P. Power FRS. Following this she returned to the UK, with a post doc. at Imperial College under the supervision of Dr. Joachim H. G. Steinke working on the formulation and implementation of metal inks. Currently Caroline is working back at UCL, under the supervision of Professors Carmalt and Ivan P. Parkin concentrating on the design of novel molecular precursors to meet the challenges faced by the synthesis of transparent conducting oxide (TCO) materials via chemical vapour deposition (CVD). 

Helen Fielding

Helen Fielding

Helen Fielding joined UCL in 2003 as a professor of physical chemistry and is now Head of Physical Chemistry and Chemical Physics.   Helen has three children (Katherine 17, David 14 and Charlotte 4). She has always worked full-time, but has benefited enormously from the department’s generous flexible working practices. Currently, she leaves early (after an early start) 3 days a week, has one long day at work and one shorter (school hours) day working at home. Of course, to manage teaching and departmental/university commitments requires the flexibility to work both ways and the newly introduced departmental policy of organising the teaching timetable in August for the year ahead is particularly helpful, in this respect. 

Liz Read

Liz Read

Liz is the Departmental Manager and DEOLO.  Liz has two adult sons and understands the need for flexible working arrangements.  In her spare time she enjoys reading and socialising with friends. 

Christoph Salzmann

Christoph is a University Lecturer and Royal Society University Research Fellow at the UCL Department of Chemistry. He heads a research group concerned with the Structural Chemistry of Complex Materials. Research highlights have included the discovery of three new phases of ice, new insights into the shapes of snow flakes and the preparation of a new graphene material. Outside work, he very much enjoys going to the children’s theatre with his three year old daughter Valentina. 

Sandeep Sehmi

Sandeep Sehmi

Sandeep has just started her second year of her Ph.D. She also completed her undergraduate degree at UCL in Chemistry with Mathematics. Sandeep has always felt part of the community within the Chemistry department and this encouraged her to continue her education here as well.  She likes to do different sporting activities to keep fit, socialise, and explore London. 

Tom Sheppard

Tom Sheppard

Dr Tom Sheppard joined the department as a postdoctoral researcher working with Professor Motherwell in 2004. In 2007 he was awarded an EPSRC Advanced Research Fellowship and appointed to a lectureship in the department. In 2010 he completed his probation period and was promoted to a Grade 8 lecturer, and in 2013 he was promoted to Reader in Organic Chemistry. 

Ivan Parkin

Ivan Parkin

Ivan joined the department in 1993 and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1997, then Reader and in 2000 Professor, he became Head of Department in 2009.  He believes strongly in a work-life balance and shows leadership in this area.  He has a duel career family with his wife also in academia so he ensures he finishes work by 4pm to collect his children from school.

Kathleen Lonsdale

Kathleen Lonsdale



"Women have often had a tough time in science - first getting jobs, and then getting enough recognition for their research.  Kathleen Lonsdale's life is a great inspiration to women who want to become scientists.  She showed they are as good (or even better) than men".

Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, born 28th January 1903 in Newbridge, County Kildare, Ireland, played a fundamental role in establishing the science of crystallagraphy and in her scientific career scored several important firsts.

From 1908 to 1914 Kathleen attended Downshall Elementary School i in Seven Kings and then won a scholarship to Ilford County High School for Girls. She was a good student, especially in mathematics and science. However, she had to attend classes in physics, chemistry and mathematics at the boys' high school because the girls' school didn't offer these subjects.

Kathleen did well in her exams and won a county major scholarship, with distinctions in six subjects. She was allowed to enter Bedford College for Women, part of the University of London, at 16. She first read mathematics but at the end of her first year switched to physics, against the advice of her old headmistress, who said she would never distinguish herself in physics. Kathleen came top in the University of London BSc examination in 1922, with the highest marks for 10 years. She was invited by W. H. Bragg, one of her examiners and a pioneer of X-ray diffraction, to join his research school at University College, London (UCL).  On Bragg's advice she worked on the structure of simple organic crystals, and collaborated with W. T. Astbury on the theory of X-ray diffraction. In 1923 W. H. Bragg moved to the Royal Institution (RI) in London and Kathleen went with him. Bragg set up team of young researchers, including John Desmond Bernal.

It was at UCL that Kathleen met Thomas Lonsdale, an engineering student at University College. They were married in 1927 and moved to Leeds the same year when Thomas got a job at the Silk Research Association. Thomas encouraged her to continue her scientific work and she worked on X-ray diffraction in the University of Leeds' department of physics. Whilst there, C. K. Ingold in the Chemistry Department gave her some crystals of hexamethylbenzene to study. Her results showed conclusively that the benzene ring was flat, something that chemists had been arguing about for 60 years. This was an important milestone in organic chemistry. Lonsdale also applied Fourier methods for the first time to analyse X-ray patterns in solving the structure of hexachlorobenzene.

During her time at the RI Lonsdale worked in many areas related to X-ray crystallography - both theoretical and experimental. She was awarded a DSc by University College in 1936 and in 1945 she and Marjory Stephenson became the first women Fellows of the Royal Society.

After World War II Lonsdale was encouraged to move into academe and in 1946 she became reader in crystallography at UCL. In 1949 she became professor of chemistry and head of the department of crystallography. Only then, at the age of 43, did she start to build up her own research school and get involved in teaching. 

She achieved many firsts in the arena of professional science and broke through several glass ceilings, blazing a trail that many women have followed, particularly in crystallography, where women are still strongly represented. These include being one of the first two women elected as Fellows of the Royal Society, the first woman professor at UCL, the first woman president of the International Union of Crystallography, and the first woman president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. She was made a DBE in 1956.


1922-23 Research Assistant to William H. Bragg, University College, London
1923-27 Research Assistant to William H. Bragg, The Royal Institution, London
1927-30 Amy Lady Tate Scholar and part-time demonstratorship, Leeds University
(Between 1929 and 1934, Lonsdale gave birth to three children, and continued her research at home.)
1934 The Royal Institution
1935-37 Leverhulme Research Fellow, The Royal Institution, London
1944-46, Dewar Fellow, The Royal Institution, London
1946-49 Reader in Crystallography, University College, London.( Founded Crystallography Group.)
1947 Special Fellow of the United States Federal Health Service
1949-68 Professor of Chemistry and Head of the Department of Crystallography, University College, London
1968-71 Professor Emeritus, University College, London

Working Dads

Working Dads

Below are a few websites aimed at working dads, whether you want to chat to other parents or get top tips, these sites are here to help:-

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2. - This is the dads’ specific discussion forum, part of mumsnet 

3. - Tips on how to cope with sleep deprivation from this US website

4. Working Families have a section on their website devoted to fathers, which includes a discussion forum

5. The Fatherhood Institute supports all aspects of making life easier for fathers

6. - A US blog written by Scott Behson, dedicated to dads and work/life balance

7. The US site has a section devoted to parents.  There is also a UK-version.

Also here are a few popular blogs for dads:


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