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Ross Houston

Personal Chair of Aquaculture Genetics

What makes you interested in your work?

Ross Houston's group
Ross Houston with his group

 Several factors. I am interested in how variation in the genome leads to variation in traits. I am also interested in how this genetic variation can be used to make improvements to aquaculture populations to address production and welfare problems such as infectious diseases. I enjoy both the fundamental aspects of science, but I am also very motivated to see an application for the research in the real world. 

At what point did you begin to see yourself as a scientist? 

I started seeing myself as a scientist during the latter part of my PhD when I began to see some interesting new findings from my experiments. The former part was mainly a series of failed experiments! But of course this is part of the learning process, and that learning process is part of becoming a scientist. 

How did you end up in your line of work? 

Partly serendipity, but I have always been interested in all science subjects. I studied human biology at undergraduate level, and particularly enjoyed the genetics lectures. From there I applied for a studentship in pig genetics, and then finally saw the light and started studying fish genetics during my first postdoctoral role. 

What was your first ever job? 

Aside from caddying at Gleneagles golf course, my first science job was actually at the Roslin Institute where I was a postdoctoral researcher in the group of the late Steve Bishop. 

What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome to reach your position? 

I think the big hurdle for most scientists comes at the stage following the early postdoctoral years when it's time to consider applying for fellowship or lecturer positions. In my case, I applied for a BBSRC 5-year fellowship which was my first experience of writing a large grant application, and so it was pretty daunting. But luckily the outcome was favourable so it was definitely worth it! 

What is the most important skill to have in science?

I think this changes as you progress through your career as a scientist. However, there are certainly some common skills throughout, and these include communication, writing, organisation, and presentation skills. It is also important to be able to learn from mistakes, and to be resilient and optimistic in the face of setbacks.  

What do you like to do when you’re not doing science? 

Running. Lots of running. Not quite as much as I used to though because I have three young children! I am also partial to a craft beer or two! 

Further Reading

Virus resistant salmon