Protein Queen Kirsty hopes to raise the global profile of women in STEM

Kirsty with FVC lecturers in lab

Protein Queen Kirsty hopes to raise the global profile of women in STEM

A former Forth Valley College graduate – who is now known as the ‘Protein Queen’ in the fight against superbugs – has launched an appeal to help her take part in an expedition to Antarctica which will boost the global impact of women.

Dr Kirsty Robb (35) from Stirling, is gearing up to be one of only three Scottish women on a ship setting 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.

The initiative aims 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.

Currently in the process of raising £14,000 to help her take part in the expedition, Kirsty would love to hear from anyone who would like to find out more about how sponsoring her can help raise their profile.

And to think Kirsty, who works in the fight against superbugs at the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Science (SIPBS) - one of the leading UK centres for research and training focused on the discovery, development and delivery of better medicines – began her remarkable professional journey at Forth Valley College’s Falkirk Campus with an NQ in Applied Biological Studies just over a decade ago!

Kirsty, who is also a STEM ambassador for Science Connects regularly visiting schools to promote science, said: “I did not have a traditional route into a career in science, but I am proud to be a Forth Valley College graduate and I loved my time there. I was a Science Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Ambassador at FVC and I am still doing that role now. I just love going out and giving something back as I am really passionate about encouraging youngsters to be enthusiastic about science.”

Originally from Girvan in Ayrshire, Kirsty moved to Stirling with her boyfriend and used her HNC in Agriculture from the Scottish Agricultural College to find work within that industry. But she quickly realised it was not for her at the age of 23.

“I should have listened to my mother,” said Kirsty, “and done science at school. So I did a quick internet search and – even though I was not sure exactly what I wanted to do –I signed up for an NQ at FVC. Well something certainly clicked and I was encouraged by the lecturers there, who saw something in me, to apply for an HND.”

Modest Kirsty excelled, and in 2009 was presented with that year’s Best Student in the Department of Applied Science at the College’s annual graduation ceremony… and that is one award that has certainly lived up to its name.

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 and her adventurous nature – Kirsty is also an experienced mountaineer and Mountain Leader, qualified to guide people in the Highlands of Scotland – is set to take her on the most exciting stage of her career journey to date.

She went on: “I feel very proud of myself to get to this stage. I didn’t think I would get anywhere with my application, but I have been through three rounds of application reviews and I am down to the 80 strong group – with only three from Scotland – who will be going on the expedition in January 2019. This whole initiative will give women more visibility and show how we can influence strategy and policy at a global level using our expertise and leadership skills.

“The whole thing is focused on leadership, strategy, building relationships and problem solving and I am bursting with excitement and being Antarctica, with me being the outdoorsy type, it is a great big tick on the bucket list!

“I am very excited at hearing what other women from around the world have to say on a whole diverse range of things. One of the main reasons we are going to Antarctica is about climate change and how it affects us all. It will be the summer when we are there, but it will still be temperatures of between zero and -15 degrees, so it will be really challenging when we are on land.

“It will without doubt be one of the highlights of my career and I think it will change my life!”

But Kirsty is quick to point to the place where it all began.

“Forth Valley College gave me the foundation to get to where I am today. When I went to university my practical skills were way better than my classmates in their third year at uni. The lecturing staff at FVC were fantastic and were all very encouraging. They nurtured something that was inside me.

“If I had to do it all again, I would do it exactly the same way 100%.”

Kirsty is currently in the process of raising funds to help her take her berth on the Homeward Bound ship in January 2019. If you would like to donate or find out about gifts and merchandise available to help her cause (such as this calendar pictured) please visit (www.gofundme.com/KirstyTeamHB2019).

She is also part of a joint fundraising effort along with her fellow Scottish based expedition mates – Helen Wade and Lorna Slater – and this can be found at the following link https://chuffed.org/project/supporting-scottish-women-in-the-2019-homeward-bound-programme

For more information on Homeward Bound visit https://homewardboundprojects.com.au/about/

At her day job
Kirsty at Strathclyde Uni
Protein Queen
Kirsty in the mountains
Kirsty's raring to go
Kirsty can't wait

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