Page 12 - PERIODIC Magazine Issue 7
P. 12

              Making it      appen

              The Department of Chemistry’s cutting-edge research and innovative teaching
              is facilitated by staff with a broad range of backgrounds and a huge range
              of technical skills and expertise.  The University, along with other leading
              institutions, is a signatory to the Technician Commitment, an initiative led by
              the Science Council to support and safeguard vital technical skills in higher

              education and research.  We talked with some of the people in Chemistry
              whose professional work supports high-level research and helps to develop
              and encourage the brilliant chemists of the future.

                                                              Since then, Nenad has trained and mentored several
                                                              other apprentices and young engineers, but their
                                                              number has become fewer in recent years. Nenad says:
                                                              ”Lots of us in jobs like this are getting on now, but it is
                                                              really important that people keep coming to learn this
                                                              trade, because it takes at least six or seven years of
                                                              training to become competent at this kind of work.  We
                                                              work at the very cutting edge of science, working with
                                                              the researchers to make prototype designs for their
                                                              experiments.  A lot of the great things designed in the
                                                              last century have come from this laboratory – the glucose
                                                              sensor and the lithium ion battery, for example. When
                                                              you’re designing something new you don’t always know
                                                              exactly where it’s going to go, and that’s what makes the
                                                              work here so interesting.  You’re doing things that have
                                                              never been done before.”

                                                              Muks Ali, Jennie Botham, Charlie
                                                              Farrell and Louise Hutchinson,
          Nenad Vranješ , ICL Electronics Manager, with Alex Garzon Gonzalez,   Teaching Lab Technicians
          Electronics Technician
                                                              A team of highly skilled technicians works in
              Nenad has worked in the Department of Chemistry   the new teaching labs, designing, preparing
              for over 40 years.  He designs and builds the complex   and testing experiments for undergraduate
              electronic equipment used in experimental research.    students.  Jennie Botham has worked in the
              Nenad explains: “We work at component level, with   Oxford Chemistry labs for 39 years, having
              many different circuit designs, and with UV-vis, FTIR   started as a trainee after leaving school.  She
              spectrometers, X-rays and high-temperature furnaces,   went on to take a chemistry degree while
              and the kind of electronics we do covers a very wide   working and bringing up two children, and has
              field.  A lot of electronics relies on maths, which I was   supported not only students but also many of
              pretty weak on when I started as an apprentice all those   the new technicians who have joined over the
              years ago.  I’d left school without qualifications, but as I   past years.
              progressed in my career I studied and learned so much,
              surprising myself by getting on to areas like calculus   Mukarram Ali came to Oxford 18 months ago
              and Fourier analysis. In total I did nine years of study on   after doing a chemistry degree and working as a
              the job, eventually culminating in a four year part-time   school lab technician.  He says: ”For me, one of
              degree in electronic and electrical design and production   the most rewarding things is that I come to work
              at Middlesex University.  That was hard work, with 6   to teach these students and I sometimes end up   Louise
              hour practical exams and weekend schools, so it was   learning from them.  It’s always interesting to work   Mukarram Ali,
              a proud moment when I finally got my BEng honours   here with so many different personalities and we   Jennie Botham
              degree.”                                        have a good group ethic in this place.”    and Charlie
            Periodic        The Magazine of the Department of Chemistry
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