Hello, my name is Robin and I studied Marine Biology at Newcastle University. I am extremely passionate about microalgae and its impact in the world, such as alternative food, biofuels, and pharmaceuticals. In my last year of university, I specialised in the effects of Reactive Oxygen Species on pigment production and growth and was awarded a first-class in my literature review. This summer, I am due to continue my studies in microalgae research. I will be investigating the impacts of chemicals found in Arctic waters on cold water species of algae and through the trophic levels. My aim is to help develop a AOP (Adverse Outcome Pathway) risk assessment and identify the stressors which could have the biggest impact on the trophic levels and human health. Throughout my career, I worked in laboratories at Newcastle University, Alnwick, and in Bermuda where I gained practical marine science experience.
My biggest advice would be:
- – Actively seek out personal development and opportunities that will give you that competitive edge.
- Find a supportive mentor and network effectively.
- Do not be distracted by what others are doing or compare yourself to others.
- Put yourself forward and develop on your expertise.
- Keep a good work/life balance – You are the most important person in your life.
- Most importantly: Believe in yourself!
I kept in regular contact with my supervisor and asked for advice when I needed it most. I also actively networked with people who were specific in my area, so all those who love algae! I developed a strong profile and following on LinkedIn by sharing relevant news and opportunities for others. I purposely put myself out there and now have good connections within the industry who have helped me enhance my knowledge and technical expertise. Consistency is key!
I was President of the Marine Science Society for 2 years whilst I studied at Newcastle. I was active in supporting students with their studies and I became a Course Representative throughout the 3 years of my studies. In addition to the President role, I was also a Well-being Officer and Senior Peer Mentor. I collaborated with companies around the North East to provide volunteering and networking opportunities for students and anyone interested in Marine Science.
I am very proud to achieve the opportunity to work in Bermuda as a Research Assistant Intern. I explored the entire country and enhanced my marine science skillset. I was extremely proud of being out in the open sea collecting data and processing this in specialised laboratories. This is an incredibly rare opportunity for people and I am thankful for being able to gain this experience.
At the moment, I am working on my marine science skills and software before starting university. I am currently learning R Statistical Software and enhancing my knowledge about method development. I read about algae on a regular basis and continue networking with people in the industry. I actively seek out STEM events to build strong relationships and attend courses relevant to the field.
My favourite part of my research is knowing I am actively contributing towards the development of new methods and filling in gaps in the knowledge. The world is a highly dynamic place and humans are constantly seeking out new activities, however, we know this is having a major impact on our oceans, and I want to develop new ways in which we can assess our impact on pristine areas, such as the Arctic. I am also very proud to be a woman in science and encourage women to pursue a career, not only in the STEM field, but in higher positions too, such as Professor, Dr and CEO.
My career had a major setback from Covid and it was tough to recover from that. I was not able to gain a position in the field for quite some time after graduation in 2020, however, rather than focus on the negatives, I re-focused myself and found a position within the STEM field as a Bioanalyst. This was a pharmaceutical position where I developed on my laboratory skills, and it was my first major industry position. This opportunity was extremely valuable and I was able to gain very useful transferable skills and knowledge. I had to remember, that every step towards something is a potential opportunity for growth and development. It was also important to understand that a setback will not always be permanent, and it is absolutely fine to take out time for yourself.
My role models are Dr Sylvia Earle (Marine Biologist) and Dr. Jane Goodall (Primatologist). Both scientists have developed ground-breaking work, and have continuously educated others around them. Not only that, but they are both Pioneers in their respected fields. Dr Jane Goodall was the first person to observe chimpanzees creating and using tools—a trait that, at that time, was thought to be distinctly human. This discovery changed the way that we understand both animals and ourselves. Whereas, Dr Sylvia Earle is a pioneer in the use of modern self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) gear and the development of deep-sea submersibles. These two amazing scientists fascinated me deeply with the way our world works.
I love to paint, meditate, gym, visit museums, and play games with friends. A creative and active outlet really helps to keep my well-being positive, and having the opportunity to share this with my friends helps keep my stress levels low.
Yes, and it is one of the most difficult things to shake sometimes. It is very easy to compare yourself to others and you know what they say, comparison is the thief of joy. To work through this, I made sure I did not delve too far into social media and I wrote a journal of the positives in my life. I wrote down the things I am proud of, including positive things about myself. For example, if I was unsure of something, I would ask someone and remember that I now have new found knowledge, rather than think why didn’t I know this before. This helped to change my perspective on things. Rather than focus on ‘what can’t I do, why can’t I do x y z’, I changed this to ‘what are the good attributes of myself?’ or ‘what is one thing I would like to develop and what positive impact will this have on me?’. Slowly, but surely, I was able to gain confidence over time. Everyone is in the same place and we are all trying to figure out life in our own way, remember you are on your own journey and there is no set manual saying where you should be or what you should do.
I am active on LinkedIn and regularly share content related to my field, and share networking/job opportunities that are available too. I enjoy being creative, and I am currently working on a project to educate people about marine sciences through art and make-up. Social media helps me share my interests the most and most people who know me are very aware of my love for algae and the STEM community. I very much enjoy meeting like-minded people who are open to talk about their passions and share their interests regarding the STEM field.
Being a woman in STEM brings me a sense a purpose, confidence and empowerment. I am from a background where women are not encouraged to pursue a STEM field, and through all the struggles, I made it into the field. I am very proud to say I am a woman in STEM, and I hope to inspire others who are considering a career in any forms of science. Women in STEM have had a profound impact on others, from Elizabeth Blackwell to Marie Curie and beyond, we as women have the power to change the world and create a positive impact on one another. Women supporting each other is a passion of mine, and I am happy to pursue this throughout my lifetime.