Susan Duthie
Image by: Euan Stewart, CCB Student on placement in the Research Strategy & Policy department

Professor Susan Duthie: a profile

By Lucy Young, Creative & Cultural Business Student on placement in the Research Strategy & Policy department - 28 July 2022

A profile of Professor Susan Duthie, the Associate Head of School for Pharmacy and Life Sciences at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. We chatted about her life in academia, her passion for research, and her journey to a senior position at RGU.

The Associate Head of School for Pharmacy and Life Sciences works in an office in the Sir Ian Wood building on campus, behind a reception and a locked door. We arrive, shake hands, and prepare to listen to her talk about scientific processes beyond the comprehension of two media students. Instead, we learn about Professor Susan Duthie, who loves Science-Fiction and was inspired by David Attenborough to study Zoology, and eventually make her way into the role of Associate Head of School.  
Regarding her introduction into academia, she said: “I was inspired at a very young age by science fiction, and David Attenborough so I ended up doing zoology as my first degree at Aberdeen University, which I absolutely love still. It was [studying] cell culture, drugs, parasites- parasites was my first love, which is a bizarre statement!” 
Professor Duthie made her first strides into the research world by working as a research technician in the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics at Aberdeen university. During her time in this job, she set her sights further: “I decided I would far rather be generating my own problems to solve than solving somebody else’s, so I went and did a part time MSC as a research intern.”  
Following this Professor Duthie completed a PhD, then went on to take up a post-doctoral research job at the Rowett Institute on a ground-breaking project that was awarded a grant from an English research institution. In this position, she was researching the effect of antioxidants on human DNA and monitoring DNA damage that was occurring. After being with the Rowett Institute for 23 years and completing a second post-doctoral research project in folic acid, and the links that fortified foods have to cancer, Professor Duthie applied to work in her current role in PaLS. She has been with RGU now since September 2014. 
Professor Duthie is not only Associate Head, but she is also the Research Excellency Framework (REF) coordinator for Pharmacy and Life Sciences. Every decade or so university researchers must collectively submit their work for a review by an external body. She explained this better in her own words: “The university produces a submission to REF- we just did it last year in May. It takes about a year to get it all analysed and it’s reviewed by external experts in all the different areas of the research. Then they make a judgement on the quality of it based on your outputs, which are things like publications, your impact, and the benefit you have to society.” 
In her current position, Professor Duthie is also an academic advisor for PhD students, passing on the expertise and skills that she has honed over the past 30 years of her life. Her passion for research and science shines through when she discusses every aspect of her work and continues to be a wonderful example of the people that we have researching here, at Robert Gordon University.  

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