Carol V. Robinson

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A pioneer in the use of the mass spectrometry for the study of proteins

Carol V Robinson is a chemist, born in the UK in 1956.

At the age of sixteen she left school to do a course in cooking and sewing because her father believed that “what women needed to know was how to care for their home”. Very shortly after she got a job at the pharmaceutical company Pfizer as a lab technician where she learned to use the spectrometer.

Carol decided to devote herself body and soul to the study of spectrometry, a technique that allows analysis of complex molecules and identification of the chemical compounds present in a substance. She began working part-time and attending classes in the evenings to get her bachelor's degree in chemistry and later her doctorate.

During those years, she imposed such a fierce discipline on herself that even today it is difficult for her get away from it. In her own words: “It is still hard for me to relax and I feel guilty if I'm not working”. After that first period in her scientific career, she had an eight year pause to raise her children. This made it rather complicated afterwards to return to science and research.

In her research as a pioneer in the use of mass spectrometry, Carol V. Robinson explores the functioning of cell membrane proteins, which play an important role in diseases such as cancer, schizophrenia, and also in drug addiction. Her revolutionary advances in developing knowledge on protein three-dimensional structure, are the basis for the development of many medicines today.

Carol V Robinson is currently professor of chemistry at the University of Oxford, after having been in the University of Cambridge. In 2004 she was elected a member of the Royal Society; in 2013 she was awarded the title of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In addition, she has been awarded the European Research Council Award and the L'oreal UNESCO awards.

«The long hours culture is in conflict with family life, and life in general, and in my opinion this is the biggest perceived obstacle for women, but a career in science is tremendously rewarding and exciting.»