Young mum gains PhD thanks to support given by The University of Manchester


A young Mum has been able to graduate from Manchester with a PhD, thanks to the support and encouragement the University offers to female early career researchers.

Dr Heather Robinson, 30, was working for a pharmaceutical company when she received a fully-funded place on the Evolutionary Genetics masters course at Manchester. After finishing this and taking a year off, she returned to Manchester to work on ancient DNA and microbial ecology.

When she fell pregnant with her second child at the end of her first year, her supervisors enabled her to take 10 months of leave, and when she returned they gave her complete flexibility in her working hours and around-the-clock access to labs and workspace. This enabled her to finish her PhD in 4 and a half years, as opposed to the 6 or 7 it would have taken if she had worked part-time.

Her research involved finding magical and medicinal substances inside ancient African ritual figurines, and identifying the contents of Roman Amphoras at The Manchester Museum. Her choice to pursue her PhD at Manchester was heavily influenced by the fact that it is one of few British universities to have custom-built Ancient DNA laboratories.

She is now working as a Health Data Analyst in the University’s Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, where she looks at regional child height and weight measurements and BMI trajectories, and uses data to predict medical conditions. She hopes to stay at Manchester, both to research and to teach.

Having a career and children can be daunting, but The University of Manchester provided me with the flexibility and motivation to continue to pursue employment in academia.
Dr Heather Robinson

“The University has a strong female representation in life science roles, which makes long-term STEM careers seem more feasible to early career researchers. I am proud to be an alumnus.

“It is important to me that my children see me working, even when this has been difficult - it has already changed my son’s view of women’s roles in society, and I am sure it will influence my daughter. They are both very excited that their Mummy is a Doctor!”

Share this release