Dept of Biological Sciences | About us | Equality and Diversity in Biological Sciences
Document Actions


Equality and diversity in Biological Sciences

Latest news: Department of Biological Sciences achieves Athena SWAN silver award [October 2018]

An exceptional legacy and future challenges

The current focus of the Department’s equality and diversity work is gender equality following the Athena SWAN Charter principles. The Department was awarded an Athena SWAN Silver award in 2018 in recognition of its commitment to gender equality in higher education.

The Birkbeck Department of Biological Sciences has a long history of supporting female biologists. The Department was formed in 2009 as part of extensive restructuring, by the merging of the School of Crystallography and the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. An early pioneer of the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences was Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan, who was head of the then Department of Botany from 1909. She was an active researcher in the field of mycology and worked with Elizabeth Garrett Andersen to form the London University Women’s Suffrage Society. The School of Crystallography was founded as the Biomolecular Research Laboratory in 1948, led by J.D. Bernal, who recruited one of Britain’s first female structural biologists, Rosalind Franklin, in recognition of her crystallographic skills to investigate the structure of viruses.

In our department, female Professors currently outnumber male Professors, as they have done for over a decade. Two former members of the department  left to assume leading positions in national organisations: Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow as BBSRC CEO, now vice-Chancellor of the University of Kent; and Professor Dame Janet Thornton FRS as Director of the EBI, Hinxton. Two current members - Professor Helen Saibil FRS and Professor Bonnie Wallace FRSC – are Directors of national research facilities. Thus, women in the department at all career levels have multiple, highly successful and influential role models and receive the clear message that gender should not impede their scientific careers. Our challenge is to broadcast and build on this legacy to allow future female leaders to flourish here.

The successful application for Athena SWAN Silver award will be added here shortly.

Read more about our policies and resources.

Department Self-Assessment Team

The SAT is made up of a diverse group of academics, researchers and support staff from across the department, representing a wide range of professional and personal experiences. The team meets regularly for updates on progress with our equality goals.

Gender Equality Champions

To discuss matters related to Gender Equality, whether personal issues faced at work/study or more general topics, contact our Gender Equality Champions: Sandra Codlin ( and Jonathan Slater (

Parents and Carers group (PACS)

New parents and others with caring responsibilities are welcome to join the Parents & Carers group (PACS), who meet regularly and informally over a cup of tea. Please contact Tina Daviter (, Maya Topf ( or Andrew Service ( for more information.


News and events highlights



Inspired by science: women scientists at Birkbeck tell their stories [Science Week 2016]

Rosalind Franklin Lecture 2017: Professor Gaia Scerif