Page 13 - PERIODIC Magazine Issue 7
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Charlie Farrell came to Oxford after working at the   At present we’re recruiting for two new apprentices,
              University of Bath.  She says: ”I fell into becoming   one mechanical and one electronic.  I started myself as
              a technician after doing my Master’s degree, but I   a trainee technician, and the Department supported me
              absolutely love it.  No two days are ever the same, and   through my HNC and then my degree.   I have been here
              it’s great when you can help the students and see them   for 30 years now, and people stay here so long because
              enjoying themselves when their experiments go right.  I   of the interesting work.  You get to learn about the
              look after the analytical suite, so it helps that I did quite   high-level research that goes on, and collaboration with
              a lot of analytical chemistry during my degree. I’m also   the academics is always interesting; they tell us about
              responsible for another three technicians, so I support   their work and we design the equipment they need.  For
              them too – I want them to be able to keep that passion   example, we are making a laser gas analyser for one of
              for what they’re doing.  Coming here was the best thing   the research groups – I go along to their meetings, we
              I ever did.”                                    discuss what they want it to do, and hopefully I can help
                                                              them solve their problems!”
              Louise Hutchinson, one of the other senior technicians,
              is the outreach specialist – in addition to all her work
              with undergraduates, Louise and her colleagues set up,   Elisabete Pires and Victor Mikhailov,
              design and demonstrate tailored practical experiments   Research Associates in Mass
              for visiting school students.  ”We try to make it fun, to   Spectrometry
              enrich what students have learned in the classroom,”   Victor says:  “I am a research associate in mass
              Louise says. ”And for me, the best thing is when the less   spectrometry, which is used to elucidate the
              confident students come to you at the end of the day and   structure and formulae of natural and synthetic
              thank you for your help.  It’s good to know that you have   molecules.  It is a very fast and sensitive
              made a difference to someone’s day.”            technique so it is very popular, and we run tens
                                                              of thousands of samples every year.  We train
                     Terri Adams, Scientific Glassblower      members of the research groups to use the mass   Elisabete Pires and

                      ”My job here is to design, construct and repair   spectrometers, and if a more complex analysis is   Victor Mikhailov
                     glassware for use in the research labs.  One of   required, we do it ourselves, or help the researchers
                     the most rewarding parts of my job is being able   develop methods for the analysis.   As a former postdoc
          Terri Adams  to turn a researcher’s vision into a real structure,   myself, I understand the demands of research, and it
                     and to see the research progress and develop.   is nice to know when my work has a positive effect on
              And it’s nice when see your contribution acknowledged   others’ research projects”.
              in a published paper. At the end of the day, technician   Elisabete Pires is a research associate specialising in
              jobs are real jobs for real people.  You don’t have to   biological mass spectrometry who came to Oxford after
              be a rocket scientist to work for the University and still   completing her Master’s degree in Portugal.  Elisabete
              contribute a significant part to scientific research.”  is developing a methodology called MALDI imaging,
                                                              working with researchers here and in the Department
                                                              of Oncology at the John Radcliffe Hospital who are
                   From a Part II thesis submitted this year:    studying brain cancer.  MALDI imaging uses a laser to
                  “Without Terri Adams’ exquisite glassware,   create ions and form a mass spectrum across the surface
                    none of my project would be possible;     of a tissue, and you can see some of the images from
                      thank you for the beautiful cells.”     Elisabete’s work featured on the cover of this edition of
                                                              the magazine.

                     Kevin Valentine, PTCL Electronics        Oxford University is a proud founding signatory
                     Workshops Supervisor                     of the Technician Commitment, a Science Council
                                                              initiative aimed at raising the profile of technical roles
                      ”Here in the PTCL we have mechanical    in Higher Education. Its main objectives are to raise the
                     engineers, electronics engineers and a repair   visibility of technicians, encourage their recognition

          Kevin Valentine  technician.  Because the equipment we make   through professional accreditation, to provide career
                     here is so varied, we need a huge range of   development and help ensure the sustainability of
              skills – from design and programming skills to turning   technical skills. Our own Professor Stuart Mackenzie is
              and milling, or being able to analyse what’s wrong with   the Institutional Lead.
              a piece of equipment and working out how to fix it.  But
              there is a shortage of engineers in the country, so we are   We have made a short film to highlight the work of
              planning for the future by encouraging more people to   some of the professional staff whose technical skills and
              take up this rewarding career.                  expertise facilitate teaching and research.  You can watch
                                                              it online at

                                                          The Magazine of the Department of Chemistry
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