Robert Cowie
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Robert Cowie

Robert came to Cambridge from Merseyside, and studied Natural Sciences from 1972.

To start with Fitz is not a stereotypical Cambridge college. I was a kid from lower middle class Merseyside - I still have a bit of an accent. But I also cannot define a Cambridge stereotype, unless it is (at least was) someone toffee-nosed and upper class who ends up with a career in the upper echelons of Whitehall (no offence to those who do end up there!). I had no desire for such. I just wanted to go to Africa and work with animals. After leaving college (with a 2.ii), I put a pack on my back and for two months hitched around Kenya and Tanzania, notably becoming involved in termite research in Tsavo National Park. But I returned to Merseyside, did a PhD on snail ecology and genetics at Liverpool University, followed by a post-doc at UCL doing the same, but then worked - lo and behold for the Civil Service - as a biologist working on termite control in agriculture and forestry in Africa. Largely through biology I have been, one way or another, to 50 countries, and none of this would have happened without the opportunities Fitz gave me.

Without Fitz I would not be a biologist but a chemist, probably working in industry, and I would never have seen the world as I have. I did not do Biology A Level, but decided that I had to become a biologist nonetheless. Biology has been in my blood since I was barely more than a toddler, and why I did not do biology at A Level is a very odd story. After lengthy discussion with David Kerridge (Director of Studies for Nat Sci) prior to coming up to Fitz he allowed me to take Biology of Organisms and Biology of Cells (and Chemistry) in my first year. Had I gone anywhere else with a less sympathetic, encouraging and helpful Director of Studies, I would not be where I am today. By the time I was doing Part II Zoology, I had come to admire Ken Joysey (Zoology lecturer and Fitz don) immensely. He was hugely helpful in advising me on my path to Africa. Without these two Fitz stalwarts, my life would have been very different.