Kirsty - Making Learning Work
Adventurer Kirsty set to become FVC Alumni Ambassador
A former Forth Valley College graduate – who is now known as the ‘Protein Queen’ in the fight against superbugs – has returned from an expedition to Antarctica which has boosted the global impact of women in STEM sectors.
Dr Kirsty Robb (36) from Stirling – pictured here flying the FVC flag on the frozen continent - was one of only three Scottish based women on a ship that set sail in January 2019 for one of the world’s most inhospitable areas, as part of Homeward Bound - a groundbreaking leadership, strategic and science initiative and outreach for women, set against the backdrop of Antarctica.
Now Kirsty has agreed to become an Alumni Ambassador for Forth Valley College and help inspire a new generation of young people to get involved in STEM subjects. So what else for Kirsty?
“A very good question,” she said, “The Homeward Bound experience will certainly stand me in good stead for whatever I do in the future. I have certainly learned a lot more transferable skills, it was not all about science. I have met some great people and there was no one among the 80 people on the expedition on the ship that I would not hesitate to contact for something or other.
“I will absolutely become a Forth Valley College Ambassador and help to inspire other young people in STEM subjects and look forward to doing so. I have some great experiences to share with them.”
Originally from Girvan in Ayrshire, Kirsty, completed an HND in Biological Sciences at Forth Valley College and won the Best Student award in the Department of Applied Science when she graduated in 2009. She then enrolled at Strathclyde University on the third year of a BSc Hons degree in Biochemistry and Immunology, graduating in 2011 and beginning her PhD in Structural Dynamics of Bacterial GntR Proteins.
Now a Post-Doctoral researcher at the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Science (SIPBS) in Glasgow, Kirsty is working in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in the fight against superbugs. Her science based expertise has been enhanced by her adventurous nature – Kirsty is also an experienced mountaineer and Mountain Leader, qualified to guide people in the highland mountains of Scotland.
Kirsty was keen to describe the sorts of things she was doing on her three week expedition. She left Scotland on Boxing Day 2018 and arrived in Argentina on 27 December. Her expedition ship, the MV Ushuaia, left Argentina on 31 December 2018 and arrived on the White Continent on 2 January 2019. Kirsty then spent 21 days on her expedition before returning to Argentina on 19 January, before setting foot back on Scottish soil at the beginning of February.
She went on: “It was very intense and there was lots of training and workshops on board. The main focus was on learning to lead – through knowing yourself and being curious about others. There was also a focus scientific communication through highly visible means of TV and radio, but also through our own social media and more traditional networks and I found it really useful.
“We were learning about ourselves and how we interact with people and even if we did have differences we could still get on with each other. It was all about listening, understanding and being curious and asking questions.
“This was made easier as we had no means of communicating with the outside world. We had no connection through our mobile phones, we were woken up every morning and even our decisions on what we could eat were made for us – which meant we could concentrate on the important work of understanding and communicating with each other. It was great.”
Her Antarctic adventure aimed to heighten the influence and impact of women with a science background in order to influence policy and decision making as it shapes our planet. Launched in 2016, Homeward Bound is targeting 1,000 women from around the world, all with critical science and STEM backgrounds, to undertake a year-long state-of-the-art programme to develop their leadership and strategic capabilities, using science to build conviction around the importance of their voices.
The inaugural voyage took place in December 2016 and the second embarked in January 2018. Homeward Bound are now recruiting for their next expedition in 2021 and more information can be found by visiting this link http://homewardboundprojects.com.au/application/
Along with her fellow Scottish based expedition mates – Helen Wade and Lorna Slater – Kirsty has benefitted immensely from her experiences.
She added: “I would absolutely recommend this experience to anyone. I could still have learned a lot if we had not gone to Antarctic, but being in such an isolated and inspiring environment crystallised our learnings. It was amazing not having the day to day and social media responsibilities we all have today. It was amazing the effect of having no contact with the outside world - we could all focus on what we wanted to achieve from the expedition.
“We always slept on the ship and always had a 6.30am start and then we would have four or five hours of workshops, but we would always try and make a landing on Antarctica every day. The scenery was amazing and so vast and we saw wildlife like three different types of penguin, humpback whales every day, Killer whales and numerous sea birds – I even saw a wandering albatross when we were going through the Drake Passage in 12 meter waves on our return leg.
“I would like to thank everyone who donated to me over the past year for making it all possible and without Forth Valley College, I would not be where I am today. The whole expedition has taught me about leadership and strategy mapping and I – and all my 79 shipmates on the expedition – are all planning ahead on our personal lives, our work, our relationships and how we can be better leaders and I have an all-encompassing 100 day plan to follow.
“The experience has helped me push my reset button and I certainly have less stress as a result and I am excited about what my fellow shipmates and I can now achieve. But, I already know I am going to do the double by visiting the Arctic Circle next year with Love Her Wild UK - a womans’ outdoor adventure group - across 200km of the Finnmark Plateau in Norway. Can’t wait.”