From microbiology to brewing – academic speaks of fermented career to professor of spirits



Professor Annie Hill started at Heriot-Watt University in January 2001 after an interest in brewing she had as a 17-year-old girl.

Nearly 20 years later, Annie is Associate Professor and runs practical brewing/distilling microbiology laboratory sessions for undergraduate, postgraduate and bespoke courses. Professor Hill is also the Programme Director of Studies for the MSc/Postgraduate Diploma in Brewing and Distilling by distance learning and is Course Director for Beverage Microbiology and Biochemistry and Industrial Practice.

Mother of three, Annie spoke of her career path to brewing and would encourage anyone to sign up.

She said: “When I was at school I heard about the BSc programme through a microbiologist at a brewery in Edinburgh - but I was only 17 years old and having never had a drink, I felt I was too young to sign up for that career at that time.

“I went away to study microbiology but brewing and distilling was always in my mind.

“One of the first things that struck me when I started at Heriot-Watt was the enthusiasm and commitment of the students – the atmosphere is completely different to that of large, more general degree programmes, but there is still flexibility to change direction during the first couple of years of the BSc programme. Many transferrable skills are gained throughout meaning that career options are wide”.

The brewing and distilling programmes are popular for applicants and all those who have completed our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes have gained employment.

Professor Hill said: “With the industry really taking off there are lots of opportunities both in the UK and internationally and in both large and small businesses. We have a very wide network of Alumni and regularly receive requests for graduates”.

The International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD) is a unique teaching and research facility. The centre is based on a partnership between industry and academics and makes up part of the School of Engineering & Physical Sciences located in the Edinburgh campus.

The ICBD is the only organisation in the UK to offer both Honours and Masters degrees in Brewing and Distilling. As such, the centre not only supplies the industry with new-blood graduates, but with services, expertise and facilities consistent with the standards required in the local, national, and international markets.

The programmes are organised in co-operation with senior representatives of the brewing, malting and distilling industries who are members of the ICBD Advisory Board. It is designed to educate potential managers of the malting, brewing and distilling industries and to provide a full understanding of the science and technology of the processes involved from raw materials, fermentation and distillation to packaging and business management.

Annie stresses that the programmes include courses that students need be prepared to work hard at.

She said: “Students need to have enthusiasm and be keen to do something different. 

“Some have done home brewing but you don't need to drink to do the programme.

“My advice would be to throw yourself into it and be prepared to work hard.”

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