In conversation with Carol Robinson.
Dhillon P., Robinson C.
Dame Carol Robinson is a professor of chemistry and Director of the Kavli Institute for Nanoscience Discovery at the University of Oxford. Carol's career in science began at the age of 16 as a lab technician at Pfizer (based in Kent), during which time she studied part-time and took evening classes to obtain a degree in chemistry. This was followed by a master's degree at the University of Swansea and a PhD at the University of Cambridge. Carol's postdoctoral training was undertaken in Peter Bennett's lab at the Department of Pathology and Microbiology, University of Bristol. Subsequently, she took a career break of 8 years to spend time with her family but made a strong comeback, taking up a position at the University of Oxford, where she began to explore protein folding. It was here that she first demonstrated, using the GroEL chaperonin-substrate complex as a prototype, that protein secondary structure can be analysed in the gas phase. Carol later made history as the first female professor of chemistry at the University of Cambridge (2001) and again as the first female professor of chemistry at the University of Oxford (2009). In her research, she has also continuously pushed boundaries, pioneering the application of mass spectrometry for the elucidation of the 3D architecture of macromolecular complexes, including membrane-bound assemblies. She has received many awards and honours in recognition of her significant contributions to the field of gas-phase structural biology, including the Royal Society Fellowship, the Davy Medal, the Rosalind Franklin Award and the FEBS/EMBO Women in Science Award. In this interview, she discusses some of her career highlights and ongoing research aspirations and draws on her unique experiences to offer advice to early career scientists.