Learning The Full Monty


The Monty Python* that is and by Python I mean the programming language.

Coding was never something that I use to think would be a part of my life! How naive I was! I learnt to use R for statistics during my Masters course which I *surprise surprise* found quite fun (especially when it worked how I expected it to) then during my last year in Australia having a working knowledge of programming became very quickly and clearly a skill I knew I would require to be a successful and competent scientist in the future of marine and conservation science. Initially, I became familiar with MATLAB as it was the main programming language used by my department. However several conversations with a very talented coder and friend led me to Python; it is free, it has wide applicability, and it is growing in popularity as the go to language.


Python is also meant to be an “easy” programming language to learn! Image: XKCD

So now I’m home in London and I decided that the one big skill I wanted to improve and become more confident in this year was my coding abilities. I knew I would like a structured course and not just self-led learning for code and luckily I came across Udemy having a sale on this course: Complete Python Bootcamp as well as a second course: Learning Python for Data Analysis and Visualization both heavily discounted (~£7 each) and decided to take the plunge. I mean a course for less than the price of two take-out coffees what’s not to like! They also both has good reviews!

I am 40% into the first course, doing one or two lectures a day during the week, and really enjoying it. I feel like I’m understanding concepts that before were both daunting and confusing as well as learning how to write neat annotated code. The first few sections were a good refresher of concepts that I already understood from mathematics or other programming languages I had come across, and now we are starting to get into the more meaty topics with writing your own Functions and soon creating Methods!!

I believe that at the end I will be a better prepared scientist and be able to contribute more to research in the future. Being able to code myself without the reliance on others will be both liberating and dare I say it exciting! I already feel an innate sense of pride at understanding concepts and applying learnt skills to different coding problems.

As I have been learning I was quite interested to come across this article on the BBC saying that in a blind test code written by women was preferred! Which is an interesting turn of events especially as traditionally it as been a rather male dominated domain (note: the study is awaiting peer-review). *FIST PUMP*. I recently came across PyLadies an “international mentorship group with a focus on helping more women become active participants and leaders in the Python open-source community” which I am very excited to explore and then was thrilled to see they have a London Meetup group which, I hope I can join for an event in the not too distant future!

So now here I am learning a new language and doing tasks with computers that I never thought would be part of my life and boy am I glad that I am. The sense of accomplishment when you can code is up there with one of the best feelings! There are lots of free resources out there to try including: codecademy, Coursera, Udemy, Learn Python The Hard Way, the Python website tutorials and even Google has a free introductory Python course!

Do you code? Which language is your preferred one? Any tips for the fledgling coder? Let me know in the comments below!

*Python is named after Monty Python’s Flying Circus and not the reptile!

You can also follow along on the Deep Blue Conversations Facebook Page. I post interesting articles related to marine conservation, share awesome stories as well as photos from the marine conservation and environmental world in general. Come on over and have a look! I also have Twitter come and join the conversation you can find me as @Leila_Lula!

The Syndrome

You’ve had it…I’ve had it…Look around you and I bet many people you look at have had it…What I hear you ask…?

Why Imposter Syndrome of course! That innate feeling that any moment now your colleagues and bosses are going to realise that you have no idea what you are doing and should not actually be there!!



Sometimes it seems to flare up more than others especially when you have an important talk to give or are about to go into the field to carry out your own research for the first time after months of prep!

“I got this” you hear yourself say but then you wonder “Have I got this? Can I do everything I said I would? Will I pull it off?” Now you have put in all the work and you have done everything you can to prepare you have actually truly got it but that does not stop the sneaky imposter syndrome from rearing its ugly head to make you feel inadequate.

I think a lot of early career scientist suffer from it and maybe the late career ones do to or they have faked it for so long that they no longer feel like an imposter. The biggest issue is that can cause us a lot of problems is self doubt and comparing your self to others who seem to have it all together while you feel as if you a floundering around out there (they are probably better at faking it!). Comparing yourself to others is a double wammy as it just brings you down and brings in even more self doubt and stokes the fire under the imposter syndrome. So what to do?

I haven’t completely worked it out yet. I think believing in your self is important and if the self doubt stops that then maybe fake* it till you make it true, tell yourself that you can do it until you believe it (as you got this far). Also, surrounding yourself or be in contact with people who believe in you and can boost you up when you are feeling low. In regards to tangible things you can do, I read a post a little while ago about being accountable for your time so that you can “prove” to yourself that you are doing your job and all the things scientist do and doing it well this seems like a neat idea to have something to look back on when that doubt creeps in. One other sweet idea is to keep an encouragement and happiness folder. In this folder you will put emails or letters in which people have written encouraging and boosting things to you and whenever you feel down you can go to the folder and have a little read and bask in others peoples good opinions of you! I have started a folder but need to remember to go and look at it when it feeling in doubt of my abilities.

I haven’t fully worked out how to get rid of Imposter Syndrome yet so if you have any tips please share them below and help a girl out. Have you sussed it all out or do you still fake it?


Always remember… (image via The Nectar Collective)

*there is a lot of tale about faking it here, I obviously don’t endorse faking who you are but if you fake believing in yourself till your truly do it can only lead to good things.

You can also follow along on the Deep Blue Conversations Facebook Page. I post interesting articles related to marine conservation, share awesome stories as well as photos from the marine conservation and environmental world in general. Come on over and have a look! I also have Twitter come and join the conversation you can find me as @Leila_Lula!

Womenswear in Academia.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what women wear in science and how it affects how we are perceived. There is the fact that I don’t think I conform to any “standardised” view of what scientists should wear especially when away from the field. I have also been reading a few other blog posts on it and the articles they have linked to as well. It got me thinking about how women are perceived in science and teaching and how we influence that (for better or worse) through what we wear.

Posts such as:


Where the authors talk about their changing styles or how they have been perceived for what they have worn. As well as how different studies and research has shown that their male counterparts are taken to be better teachers and better professors right off the bat.

“Classwork was graded and returned to students at the same time by both instructors. But the instructor students thought was male was given a 4.35 rating out of 5 (in promptness). The instructor students thought was female got a 3.55 rating.” Researcher Lillian MacNell in the Slate article.

I mean that is just nuts is it not? Losing over a point in evaluation because of gender bias!

It got me thinking and also a little worried…what is going to happen one day am I going to be taken less seriously, seen to have less authority and believed to be less efficient just because I am a female. Is the fact that I like to wear a dress and ballet flats as opposed to a power suit or the tried and trusted “uniform” of jeans and a t-shirt going to skew the way I am seen by colleagues and students. If I wear a new outfit everyday does that mean I won’t be taking my teaching or marking seriously (“she looks like she cares too much about her clothes, she wore a different dress every day!”)? I shouldn’t at all, but from the studies and accounts it looks like my future students will! It appears right now females can’t win even if we do conform to female or academic stereotypes of not! What about at the other end of the dress spectrum if I wore field clothes all the time or the same jeans and a t-shirt would the other extreme be taken, that I don’t care about my appearance so how could I care about my work or marking (maybe this is a stretch but, at this point it is not hard to believe). I don’t think how I or other women, and men for that matter, dress should affect peoples perceptions of our ability to do our job in an efficient and competent manner or be able to give the viewer an insight into our intelligence.

When I am in the field and on the boat I obviously dress appropriately for what I am doing. I look like your standard field biologist:

That's me looking pretty snazzy!

Neon is everyones colour!

Me On Adrianus

Layers and coffee! The standard biologists outfit! Photo: © Sacha Guggenheimer

Me On Adrianus 2 - Big Hair Don't Care

Big hair, don’t care! Photo: © Damien Morales

However, this is how I dress day to day away from the field. If I was in the lab, office or giving a talk I am pretty certain I would be rocking something along these lines: