Teaching and Services Technician
Sir William Dunn School of Pathology
Tell us a bit about your role
My role covers a wide range of activities. The main day-to-day tasks range from ensuring that the Dunn School always has the correct amount of media, such as Luria Broth and 2XYT to support the researchers work. I also carry out mycoplasma testing when asked to by the researchers and make up agar plates with or without antibiotic when required, if there are low levels of stock. I look after the collection and sterilisation of hazardous waste and; washing and sterilising of glassware.
There is also a classroom element where I support the academics delivering classes to University of Oxford medical students. This can include packing and sterilising items, preparing large numbers of various media aliquots and supporting bacterial streaking prep sessions
I began my journey in this role just over two years ago, with my Level 3 Laboratory Technician apprenticeship. Over the course of these two years, I have gone from having absolutely no experience of working in the laboratory environment to now having a wide skill set needed for working as a services technician. Alongside the technical aspect, I have grown in confidence, both in myself and my abilities, even suggesting ways to improve processes to my manager. Just before completing my apprenticeship, I was offered a 5-year contract to continue in the role I was in.
I believe my role and the roles of other similar support staff are key aspects of the medical sciences as my job is an essential service for the researchers. This is allows them to focus on their important research while knowing that dirty glassware will be efficiently cleaned, hazardous waste will be disposed of and both media and agar plates are always ready to use in abundance.
What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?
I believe that the most meaningful part of my day to day job is carrying out mycoplasma testing. By conducting this test, it then allows the researcher to know if there are any mycoplasma in their cells. If the test does come back negative, they can then work to eliminate these mycoplasmas and in turn improve their techniques so this does not happen again, this is considered an extremely important part of the work carried out. Other aspects of my work such as making sure that there is a good stock of media and agar plates; and to make them when required is very important to ensure the researchers can take what they want for their experiments. Ensuring the hazardous waste is disposed of correctly is also important to make no harm is caused to the wider environment.
Can you tell us about something you've done, contributed to that you're most proud of?
During my time as an apprentice, I made improvements to a couple of processes. One of these involved the suggestion of getting a dust hood for when the powder for different media is measured out to protect all users in the room. I suggested this as even though FFP2 masks were provided it would make it safer to complete the task and for others to be in the room at the same time. This was then implemented, and it improved the cleanliness of the area as the sticky media dust settled on all surfaces including at high level. I was very proud to have contributed this idea as it showed me of the growth in confidence from when I first started. Another improvement that I have made was when we obtained a laminar flow hood for pouring agar plates. When we got this hood, I realised there was twice the amount of space to work with so while 1 bottle was setting, I was able to start pouring the second. By doing this it has saved roughly 1/3 of time usually required which in turn has saved money for the end users.
Over my time as an apprentice, I took part in some outreach activities to promote scientific apprenticeships with both my college group, CSR and with University of Oxford Apprenticeship group. Being an apprenticeship ambassador helps show the different pathways the younger generation can take to get to their dream career. While at these different events, what really struck me was the number of students at GCSE and A Level who were not aware they could either take the apprenticeship route at the University or take a scientific apprenticeship. I am so proud for taking the opportunity to promote Laboratory Technician apprenticeships.
At the start of this year I was awarded Apprentice Technician of the year as part of Oxford University Apprenticeship Awards. This is something am so proud to have received and for all my hard work recognised was an amazing feeling.
What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?
In the next 100 years in medical sciences, I would like to see more apprenticeships of all different levels being more widely used as a career path to get into the area without having to go to university. By improving access to a medical science career through apprenticeships it will bring a more diverse range of people into the sector which in turn could lead to new discoveries and new opportunities for the younger generation. I would also love to see women playing such a key role in science and to keep inspiring the next generation to get into science.