Carol Robinson at Exeter College dining hall
Carol Robinson in Exeter College dining hall

Image courtesy of Brigitte Lacombe

Oxford chemist wins global women in science award

Professor Dame Carol Robinson has won a €100,000 award that recognises outstanding achievements by women in science. 

Professor Robinson from the Department of Chemistry has been named the 2015 European Laureate in the 17th annual L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science Awards.

Since 1998, the annual L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science Awards have recognized 87 laureates, two of whom have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. The awards aim to promote and encourage women throughout their scientific careers.

Professor Robinson, who was the first female Professor of Chemistry at both Cambridge and Oxford, will receive the prize on the 18th of March, at a ceremony held at the Sorbonne in Paris.

The award recognizes her contribution to transforming the use of the mass spectrometer from a device that simply determines the atomic makeup of a substance into a high-performance tool for maintaining protein interactions.

She once took a drill to an expensive new spectrometer to modify it suit her purposes. Her research has established a whole new scientific field, gas phase structural biology, which uses mass spectrometry to study protein complexes. Findings from her work have led to novel ways of studying the cell membrane proteins that play a critical part in the human body.

Professor Robinson, who is now a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry, originally left school at 16. She studied part time while still working, and then took an eight year career break to raise her children before returning to academia. She said, 'It is important to follow your passion and to be committed. Being an academic is a very flexible career, particularly if you have outside commitments. There are so many positives about being a scientist - opportunities to present your research, to interact at conferences and to carry out collaborations across the world. It really is a great career choice.'

The L'Oreal-UNESCO Awards have also named laureates from Africa and the Arab states, the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America and North America.