PhD graduate will continue work in treatment of childhood disease

When Barbara Buchan stepped onto the Music Hall stage to receive her PhD last week, it was not as a parting farewell to Robert Gordon University.

Barbara BuchanThe Huntly Street resident, who graduated at 10.30am on Friday 9 December with a PhD in drug formulation, has been invited to continue her work at the university in developing an innovative treatment for a rare childhood disease.

Barbara (27) originally joined the university in 2002 when she commenced studies on the Masters of Pharmacy programme at the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences (SPLS). Halfway through her pre-registration year in 2006, her mind became set on pursuing a career in research rather than continuing on a path into pharmacy.

The following year, Barbara’s plans came to fruition when she was offered a PhD at RGU. Over the next four years Barbara studied three alternative formulations for the treatment of Nephropathic Cystinosis.  During this time her work has been published in international journals and she has presented at national and international conferences, travelling to England, Italy and the USA. 

Cystinosis is a rare genetic disease primarily affecting children where the amino acid cystine accumulates in all body organs in the form of crystal deposits. Cystine in the eye makes patients severely sensitive to light and induces chronic eyelid spasms. As such, patients must use eye-drops on an hourly-basis to slow the accumulation of these crystal deposits.

Barbara’s research has been carried out alongside a team of researchers in the university’s Institute of Health and Welfare Research and SPLS. The team are currently developing a new approach for the treatment of the eye-related complications associated with cystinosis - an eye gel that is intended to reduce pain levels and the intense dosing schedule.

The preparatory work done by Barbara and the team recently attracted a £100,000 grant from Sparks, a leading children's medical research charity based in the UK. The funding is allowing Barbara to continue her PhD work and she is now employed as a post-doctoral researcher at the university. 

“I’m delighted to be continuing my work as a full-time member of staff,” commented Barbara. “The Sparks grant has been gratefully received by my colleagues and me, and we are very much looking forward to bringing this innovative treatment to reality.”

Looking back on her time at the university so far, she concluded, “It’s been a lot of hard work but also a lot of fun. I’ve particularly enjoyed meeting lots of people from around the world with the same enthusiasm for life as myself.”

Barbara was joined at her graduation ceremony by fiancé Stuart McKenzie, mother Betty Buchan and future mother-in-law Liz McKenzie.


Andrew Youngson
Communications Officer | Faculty of Health and Social Care
Robert Gordon University
AB10 1FR
Tel: 01224 262389