Robbie’s a man of many talents, and is talented in doing many things at once. By day, he’s completing a PhD by researching a disease called ‘MacTel’ – an eye disease with no discernible cause or cure.
He’s also co-founded an advocacy group called QueersInScience, that aims to promote visibility of LGBTIQ+ people in STEM. We caught up with Robbie to find out more about his passion for STEM, and why it’s so important to have an open discussion about identity in STEM.
So, tell us about your work?
In my PhD, I study the impact of genetic mutations and metabolism compounds on a rare eye disease called Macular Telangiectasia (MacTel for short). MacTel often leads to blindness but no cause or cure has yet been discovered.
My job is to explore the genetics of people suffering from this disease as well as their metabolism and try to understand if there’s a genetic cause behind MacTel. My work will hopefully one day be used for developing a treatment.
What do you love about your job?
I love the idea that numbers hide secrets and that with statistics and data analysis I can uncover them. There are so many hidden stories behind all sorts of data.
Something I’ve learnt in my career is that it can be incredibly rewarding when you discover something that no-one else has before, or when you tackle a problem and see it start to work. In high school, I thought that STEM was a world filled with genius people that spent their entire day bending over books – no talking or laughing allowed. I could not have been more wrong!
What’s your dream job?
I don’t think I have a specific dream job. I dream of analysing all sort of different data and discovering more and more stories and interesting facts about different types of data.
Tell us about QueersInScience?
Around March 2018, I co-founded an association for LGBTQI+ people working in STEM and Medicine (STEMM) around Melbourne. We called this association QueersInScience.
For those who are part of this community, we want to let you know we are here and we would like you to join us! We want to destigmatise the stereotypes, normalise LGBTIQ+ presence and promote visibility.
If you know there are other people like you, you don’t feel alone anymore. It’s so important to feel safe. Safe for being who you are, safe to express yourself, safe to think that you are like everyone else and you deserve everything that STEMM has to offer you.
We are a splendid spectrum of colourful people, all different and all amazing in our own special ways and recognising this is key to build a happy environment, especially in our workplaces where we spend most of our day.
What makes you a ‘colourful’ person?
I’m an incredibly loud person. Often people say that they hear me before they actually see me. Being a true Italian, I cannot talk if I can’t move my hands and arms – which often makes me look like I’m scaring away flies! I also have a strangely elastic skin which makes me able to make very weird faces!
Author: Eliza Brockwell
Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.