Gillian Hunter
Lecturer in Cell and Molecular Biology

What was your dream career when you were younger?

When I was younger I considered a number of career options from author, to journalist to PE teacher.


What subjects did you study at school?

I studied lots of different subjects, including English, Maths, French, PE, History, Physics, Chemistry and Biology.


Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?

I have been inspired by the many fantastic scientists that I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years, who have provided much motivation and enthusiasm to continue in this line of work.


How have the subjects you studied at school helped you in your career?

I didn’t study Biology until I was in 6th year at school, but was immediately enthralled with genetics. At school I did a lot of maths and chemistry, and after going to university to study Genetics a good understanding of both these subjects helped immensely in my understanding of cell processes. Plus these days bioinformatics and statistics form a good part of the study of biology so my maths knowledge is continuing to be useful.


Please briefly describe your STEM journey since leaving school.

After leaving high school I did a degree in Genetics at Glasgow University. This was a five year degree as it included a one year work placement at the Pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca. Taking this industrial placement essentially set me on the course I have ended up on. I loved working in the lab full time, carrying out research and trying to work out what my results were telling me. I could immediately see myself doing research work as a job. On completion of my degree, I moved to London and the Institute of Psychiatry to do my PhD in Neuroscience and Genetics, working on trying to find new genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and I then worked through a number of different postdoctoral positions (at the University of Oxford and University of Edinburgh) before securing a permanent position as a lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University. Now I teach the theory and practical aspects of molecular biology to our students and also carry out my own research into two neurodegenerative conditions, Alzheimer’s disease and spinal muscular atrophy.


What skills do you utilise most in your career? 

Multi-tasking and timekeeping are probably the most important skills I need to be able to use, as no two days in my job are the same and we work to many of deadlines all year round. I also need good presentation skills to ensure my students understand the concepts I am teaching them and digital skills to develop my teaching resources.


What advice would you give to any young people considering a STEM career? 

It is a great thing to enjoy the job that you do. So try to make sure you can do something that enthuses you and motivates you to find out more. Try also to get as much experience as you can in the field that you’re interested in, as this can often lead to new opportunities as well as looking great on your CV.