Kirsty Robb

Post-doctoral researcher in SIPBS

I did not take the “traditional” route to get to where I am today. When I was 23 I made the bold decision to go back to college after leaving school at 17.  I did an NQ in Applied Biological Sciences at Forth Valley College without really knowing what I wanted to do after that. I followed this up by continuing to an HND at the college and through great encouragement from my lecturers, I applied for direct entry to third year of an Honours degree in Biochemistry and Immunology in SIPBS.  The experience I had during my final year project encouraged me to apply for a PhD looking at protein structure and dynamics of regulatory proteins in bacteria.  In 2016 I took up a post-doctoral role in SIPBS. 

My current research is in collaboration with GSK investigating how to improve the yield of clavulanic acid, an important molecule that allows the antibacterial activity of penicillin-type antibiotics against otherwise resistant bacteria.  This project involves a lot of molecular genetics and strain development.  It has been a very steep learning curve from my PhD which was very biochemistry and physics-based but I have realised that skills I learned from my PhD and from my route through college are transferable to any science discipline and I am still as willing to learn as I was when I was a college student.

I have come a long way from where I started as a slightly unsure 23-year-old at FVC and have a much clearer picture of where I am going now.   In early 2017, I became aware of a leadership program called Homeward Bound.   This is a groundbreaking leadership, strategic and science initiative for women, set against the backdrop of Antarctica. The initiative, turned global movement 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. The program aims to train 1000 women over 10 years for sustainable future of our planet.  I applied and to my great surprise I was accepted.  This has given me opportunities that I would never have considered before, such as applying to be a BBC expert.  The confidence that this has given me has been huge and I want to pass on skills that I have learned to help others.  With these new skills, I’m very excited about where the future will take me.

I help run the postdoc researchers’ group in SIPBS and we organised a post-doc symposium day in 2018.  I have co-organised the 2nd Glasgow Microbiology Collective, a network that encourages collaboration between microbiologists from the University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow. I am an Early Career Researcher Representative for SULSA representing the interests of ECRs at Strathclyde.  I am also a Member of the Microbiology Society and I am one of their Champions promoting the society and its benefits to members. I am also a STEM Ambassador – this is one of the most rewarding things I do - promoting microbiology and science in general, not only to school children but also to communities who might not necessarily have access to science