My PhD into palm oil led to dream post-doc position


Dr Kirstie Goggin completed a Kess-funded PhD at USW, supervised by Professor Denis Murphy. She is now working as a post-doctorate research associate



"My PhD developed new chemical and genetic approaches to improve traceability, transparency and authenticity within food supply chains. 

"I focused on palm oil because it is so topical and new methods are desperately needed to support current approaches, but my approaches can be applied to other food products to keep consumers safe.

Kirstie Goggin PhD and Kess student - palm oil  Palm

"Palm oil is viewed by many as the devil of the tropics so it was fascinating to work in this area and to hear people’s different perceptions. 

"Believe it or not, there are many positive sides to the palm oil industry that you don’t hear about in the news, so it has been good to educate people about these.

"Whether we like it or not, palm oil is here to stay, so it’s best to advocate sustainable production and to have meaningful and educational conversations rather than just focus on the negatives.

"Conducting my research was great fun. I travelled all around Europe, met experts in the field and worked in international labs. I was also been shortlisted for Young Lipid Scientist of the Year 2018 and gave countless talks about my research."


Right - Palm oil sample - most people don't realise that it starts life this colour!

Kirstie Goggin, PhD student 

"One of the most memorable experiences was talking to 1000+ sixth form students about the ethical dilemmas of palm oil production! Throughout my entire life I’ve had a chronic fear of public speaking so this was a massive turning point for me. I kept thinking that I would have been very inspired to hear from a young, female scientist when I was in school.

"My PhD covered biology and chemistry. I did my undergraduate degree in International Wildlife Biology and while I loved the concept of conservation and making a difference, I was more at home in the lab than out in the field. 

"I have always been academic so the thought of going straight from undergraduate to PhD didn’t really phase me, but it was still a shock! But there is a lot of support at USW, which really helps.

Left - me at home in the lab!




Kirstie Goggin, PhD, First paper published.jpg

"The more time you spend out of your comfort zone, the bigger it becomes.

"I am incredibly proud of how far I have come. Not much phases me anymore. I have realised that public speaking isn’t actually that scary and that it’s okay to feel out of your comfort zone. The more time you spend out of your comfort zone, the bigger it becomes.

"The highlight was getting my first research paper published. It is easy to doubt yourself and your work when you’re in the midst of your PhD research but being published is the ultimate validation. I’ve since published several papers, but that first one will always be special."

Right - Publishing my first paper!


Kirstie Goggin, PhD, Prague best poster winMy PhD has led to my dream job


"My PhD provided me with many opportunities which will enhance my career. As well as gaining technical and scientific skills. I completed additional training and attended international conferences which allowed me to network, learn new things,  build upon my confidence and boost my profile as a young researcher. 

"As a result of my PhD experience at USW, I have secured a coveted postdoctoral research associate position. I couldn't be happier."


Left - Winning best poster presentation at a conference in Prague



Best bits about my PhD at USW


  • It led to a postdoctoral research associate position! 

  • Flexibility – I worked for four solid hours in the morning, then had afternoon to myself to walk my dog or exercise. I did a couple more hours in the evening once my brain had had a break!

  • Development opportunities – USW’s Graduate Research Office offers loads of free training courses for postgraduate students. These were really useful throughout the PhD journey to meet people, learn specific skills and build confidence.

  • Support – My supervisors were all great. Outside of these, there was always somebody on hand to help or advise me.

  • Location – the Glyntaff campus, where science is based, is lovely, with lots of different places to go to socialise or for a walk.

  • Being fully funded through Kess 2, a European Social Funds (ESF) initiative through the Welsh Government.