Kirsty with FVC lecturers in lab
Protein Queen Kirsty ready to set off on Antarctic expedition
A former Forth Valley College graduate – who is now known as the ‘Protein Queen’ in the fight against superbugs – embarks soon on an expedition to Antarctica which will boost the global impact of women in STEM subjects.
Dr Kirsty Robb (36) from Stirling, is gearing up to be one of only three Scottish based 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.
Along with her fellow Scottish based expedition mates – Helen Wade and Lorna Slater – Kirsty will be leaving Scotland for Argentina on 26 December and embarking from there to Antarctica on 31 December, with an estimated date of arrival there on 2 January 2019. The expedition is expected to spend around two weeks on the frozen continent, before returning to Argentina to continue their development project and then return to the UK at the beginning of February.
Kirsty had to raise £14,000 to help her take part in the expedition and managed to reach her target with the help of family, friends, colleagues and sponsors including: Forth Valley College’s Foundation, Scottish Schools Education Research Centre (SSERC) and the University of Strathclyde.
Kirsty, said: “This is it and I can’t wait to get going. The year has gone in really quickly raising money and preparing for the Homeward Bound adventure and the important goal of helping women across the world to be more influential in science and engineering as well as in leadership roles.
“I can’t thank everyone who has helped me over the last 12 months enough for their support and I am determined to use this opportunity as best I can and do Scotland proud.”
Working 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 – Kirsty began her remarkable professional journey at Forth Valley College’s Falkirk Campus with an NQ in Applied Biological Sciences just over a decade ago.
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 and her adventurous nature – Kirsty is also an experienced mountaineer and Mountain Leader, qualified to guide people in the highland mountains of Scotland – is set to take her on the most exciting stage of her career journey to date.
Kirsty, who is also a STEM ambassador for Science Connects regularly visiting schools to promote science, said: “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 program 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%.”
For more information on Homeward Bound visit https://homewardboundprojects.com.au/about/