Research Scientist Takes up Schools Advisory Role

Research scientist Dr Kathleen McDougall has been appointed by the University of the Highlands and Islands to support teaching in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as the STEM subjects, in schools across the region.

As an adviser for the STEM curriculum, Dr McDougall will be visiting schools across the region, providing resources and information, and encouraging them to incorporate the expertise and enthusiasm of local volunteer STEM ambassadors from industry and academia.

The university recently formed a partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to run the STEMNET contract for 2011-2015. This includes managing the STEM ambassador programme and schools advisory service across the region.

Previously a researcher for seven years at the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) in Thurso, part of North Highland College UHI, Dr McDougall will be championing the work of more than 500 ambassadors from more than 100 organisations and businesses in the Highlands and Islands who bring the STEM subjects alive through their own experiences.

Caithness-born Dr McDougall, a former pupil at Thurso High School, trained as a biologist and studied anatomy for her honours degree. She investigated human bone repair and biomaterials for her doctorate, and then worked in osteoporosis (often known as fragile bone disease) research. She also worked in the United States at the University of Rochester on mechanisms of bone development and repair.

Her more recent career involved environmental research in projects including the diet of seabirds and stress in warm water corals, plus support roles in rocky shore fieldwork and use of an electron microscope at the ERI.   

“I have been interested in science since I was young and I’ve enjoyed a varied career working in different scientific disciplines. I will be giving young people an insight into the world of science, technology, engineering and maths, and the many career paths they can follow,” Dr McDougall said.

“Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are dynamic – changing all the time – and we have to keep moving to keep up. The STEM programme, by supporting the Curriculum for Excellence, introduces young people to the world of these subjects in a cross-curricular manner, where they can see their application everyday life, together with current challenges and those of the future.”

Ambassadors represent all STEM disciplines and at all levels, from apprentice engineers to chief executives. They act as a free resource to all secondary schools across the region and can help with classroom projects, lunchtime STEM clubs or by giving careers talks.

Ian Leslie, dean of science, health and education at the University of the Highlands and Islands, said: “We have a key role to play in increasing awareness of STEM and the opportunities available locally. By reaching outside the classroom, teachers and lecturers collaborate across subjects, enhance and enrich the school curriculum, make links with the world of work, and use varied contexts to help young people relate school science and mathematics with their real-world experience of STEM.

“Effective and inspiring teachers are vital to raising students’ enjoyment of, enthusiasm for, and achievement in STEM subjects – and through our delivery of the STEMNET Schools Advisory Service, we intend to support them in the best way we can.”

Dr McDougall can be contacted on 01463 279351 or email

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Contact: Glenda Johnson
Phone: 01463 279222