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In 2024, MPLS started hosting a series of Diversifying STEM Curriculum discussion events, which will build on the MPLS and History of Science Diversifying STEM Curriculum project. These events aim to engage staff and students with topics that are relevant to the existing curricula across STEM subjects, as well as highlighting and exploring inclusive teaching practices that improve the way we teach science at Oxford. 

As part of this, some of the events will highlight prominent, influential figures in scientific history who are taught in our STEM curricula, and have controversial backgrounds and beliefs. We recognise that many of these beliefs or issues discussed in the series are a product of their time, but consider it important to surface these matters and encourage critical conversations around the impact of these ideas on modern science.

Event Title: Advancing Inclusion in Chemical Sciences Teaching and Training

Monday 1 July 2024, 2:30pm – 3:30pm

Hybrid – online and in-person in the Wolfson Seminar Room, Chemistry Research Laboratory, Department of Chemistry

Talk, followed by refreshments and networking

Professor Caroline Dessent and Dr Kelechi Uleanya from the University of York will discuss their practical approaches to inclusive teaching in Chemistry. Join us for an engaging discussion that is relevant to all areas of science, chaired by Professor Stephen Faulkner, Head of Chemistry.

To sign up for the event, please complete this Microsoft Form.


York Chemistry has a well-established reputation for its work to support Gender Equality in Science careers.  Much of the early work conducted by the department focused on recruiting and retaining women, and ensuring that they were promoted at equal rates to men.  This initial focus on gender equality has evolved into a broader work that encompasses many aspects of diversity and inclusion, including race, LGBTQ+, and disability.  Over recent years, the Department has made efforts to ensure that its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) work extends into how it delivers teaching and training to undergraduate and post-graduate chemists.  In this talk, we’ll give an account of work done to decolonise and diversify the Chemistry Curriculum at York, and broader efforts to promote EDI throughout our chemistry teaching programs.  We will also describe some of the EDI research projects currently being conducted in our Department to develop new approaches to support minoritized students.

Speaker profiles

Photo of Caroline DessentCaroline Dessent is Head of Department and a Professor of Physical and Analytical Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry at York (@ChemistryatYork). Her research group (@DessentLab) works on photoactive molecules and ensembles, with applications in biological systems and human health. She was previously the Chair of the Equality and Diversity Group in Chemistry (2017-2021), where she led all of the equality, diversity and inclusion work conducted by the department, including lead the Chemistry Department’s successful 2019 Gold Athena Swan award. She has combined her scientific career with raising three children (James, Grace and Kitty), and worked part time between 2009 and 2020.

Caroline has been a passionate advocate for the careers of women in science for many years, but has more recently focused on working to improve the participation of minoritzed ethnic scientists in Academia. She established work at York to Decolonize the Chemistry Curriculum, and runs an RSC funded projects to investigate the lived experienced of minoritized Chemistry students and staff.


Photo of Kelechi UleanyaDr Kelechi O. Uleanya is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in physical chemistry at the University of York.  She was awarded her PhD at York in 2021 for laser interfaced mass spectrometry studies of biological and pharmaceutically relevant molecules.  She has continued to work with Caroline Dessent for her post-doctoral studies, where she is investigating the excited state properties of flavin molecules.  Before pursing her PhD, she gained her first and second degrees (BSc & MSc) from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria, and worked as a Lecturer in Chemistry at the National Open University of Nigeria. She is a member of the RSC Spectroscopy and Dynamics interest group committee, and has recently been elected as a member of the Faraday Community Council.

Alongside her chemistry research, Kelechi is heavily involved in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work at the University of York. She served as the post-graduate EDI representative and is currently the Chemistry Department PDRA representative on the EDI committee. She has developed a resource to support decolonisation of the chemistry curriculum, and has published a number of EDI studies in the refereed literature.

To sign up for the event, please complete this Microsoft Form.

On Wednesday 24 January 2024 we hosted an event on Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher, a British statistician and geneticist, who pioneered the development of experimental design and the application of statistical methods in science. An influential figure in British scientific history, his work brought Darwinism into the genetic era and his contributions remain relevant today. Fisher, however, was also a leading eugenicist who co-founded the Cambridge University Eugenics Society.

Our panellists, comprised of colleagues from Biology, Statistics and the Faculty of History, introduced and discussed Fisher’s work and contributions from an historical and STEM perspective, while also exploring the challenges that some of his views pose in the modern world.

Our panellists included:

  • Dr Alex Aylward – Departmental Lecturer in History of Science, Faculty of History
  • Dr Maria Christodoulou – Senior Statistical Consultant, Department of Statistics
  • Prof. Alan Grafen, Professor of Theoretical Biology, Biology Department

While the event was not recorded, our panel have shared the following reading list for anyone who would like to find out more.


Reading List

Fisher’s writings – published and private

Fisher, R. A. The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection: A Complete Variorum Edition. Revised reprint of the 1930 original. Edited, with a foreword and notes, by J. H. Bennett. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Bennett, J. H., ed. Collected Papers of R. A. Fisher. Volumes 1–5. Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press, 1971–74.

Bennett, J. H., ed. Natural Selection, Heredity and Eugenics: Including Selected Correspondence of R. A. Fisher with Leonard Darwin and Others. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983.

Bennett, J. H., ed. Statistical Inference and Analysis: Selected Correspondence of R. A. Fisher. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990.

The R.A. Fisher Digital Archive

Historical writings on Fisher, eugenics, and race

Aylward, Alex. “R. A. Fisher, eugenics, and the campaign for family allowances in interwar Britain.” The British Journal for the History of Science 54, no. 4 (2021): 485–505.

Bartley, Mary M. “Conflicts in human progress: Sexual selection and the Fisherian runaway.” The British Journal for the History of Science 27, no. 2 (1994): 177–196.

Brattain, Michelle. “Race, racism, and antiracism: UNESCO and the politics of presenting science to the postwar public.” The American Historical Review 112, no. 5 (2007): 1386–1413.

Gould, Stephen Jay. “The smoking gun of eugenics.” Natural History 100, no. 12 (1991): 8–17.

MacKenzie, Donald A. Statistics in Britain, 1865–1930: The Social Construction of Scientific Knowledge. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1981. Chapter 8.

Mazumdar, Pauline M. H. Eugenics, Human Genetics and Human Failings: The Eugenics Society, Its Sources and Its Critics in Britain. London; New York: Routledge, 1992. Chapter 3.

Moore, James. “R. A. Fisher: A faith fit for eugenics.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 38, no. 1 (2007): 110–135.

Norton, Bernard J. “Fisher’s entrance into evolutionary science: The role of eugenics,” in Dimensions of Darwinism: Themes and Counterthemes in Twentieth-Century Evolutionary Theory, edited by Marjorie Grene, 19–29. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Recent writings prompted by the Fisher controversy

Aylward, Alex. “A backwards book? New perspectives on a classic scientific text.” The Oxford Historian, XIX (2022).

Bodmer, Walter, R. A. Bailey, Brian Charlesworth, Adam Eyre-Walker, Vernon Farewell, Andrew Mead and Stephen Senn. “The outstanding scientist, R. A. Fisher: His views on eugenics and race.” Heredity 126, no. 4 (2021): 565–576.

Edwards, A. W. F. “Cancelled by his college: How a panicking Cambridge institution obliterated the memory of one of its most famous sons.” The Critic, March 1, 2021.

Evans, Richard J. “R. A. Fisher and the science of hatred.” The New Statesman, July 28, 2020.

Johnson, Eric Michael. “Ronald Fisher is not being ‘cancelled’, but his eugenic advocacy should have consequences.” Published online April 12, 2021.

Rutherford, Adam. “Race, eugenics, and the cancelling of great scientists.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Published online December 17, 2020.