Kirsty Ross
Outreach and Public Engagement Officer, University of Strathclyde/St Andrews

What was your dream career when you were younger?

I wanted to be a florist, then a midwife, then settled on becoming a scientist in secondary school. I’m now in a role that didn’t exist 10 years ago!


What subjects did you study at school?

At A-level, I studied Biology, Chemistry, Physics and an AS level in Art.


Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?

I was the first person in my family to do A-levels and go to uni. My biggest inspiration actually came from reading popular science books and lots and lots(!) of New Scientist magazines!


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

Coming from an English school, we did 11 subjects up to 16 years old but then had to narrow down to just 3-4 at A level. That was when I first found out the complexity of biology and it blew me away how much more there was to learn! I am a very curious person and so having knowledge in lots of different subject makes my current job(s) a lot easier.  


Please briefly describe your STEM journey since leaving school.

I couldn’t afford to go straight to uni from school, so I worked in a prep school as a Science Technician and then as a Lifeguard on weekends to save up some money,

I went straight to the University of Edinburgh to study Biological Sciences: Microbiology & Infection which I loved. I knew that if I wanted to continue progressing in science then I’d need a PhD so I moved to the University of Glasgow to do one in vaccine development.

After university I worked as a postdoc scientist for a few years before realising I was having far more fun talking with others about exciting science than doing it myself. I am now a full time Public Engagement Professional in three of Scotland’s universities! Now I can’t imagine doing anything else!


What skills do you utilise most in your career? 

Creativity, working independently and in a team, talking to people, building professional relationships between people, event management and a lot of logistics!


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

Don’t panic! You may feel like you are being pushed towards a single subject. However, interdisciplinary research (across multiple subject areas) is becoming more common at universities, so you may be able to switch subjects later if you like. Being flexible is key; your dream job may not even exist yet!

There are also lots of routes that will get you to where you want to be. There are lots of apprenticeship schemes available now where you can get paid and get a degree. Keep your eyes open to all the different opportunities that are available and ask people for advice. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!