Norwich School 1978-1984. Norwich City College 1984-1985. University of Reading 1985-1988. Birkbeck College University of London 1988-1991
Degree 2:1 Pathobiology. PhD Expression of HIV-1 Proteinase For Crystallisation Studies
Whilst at school and university: weekend work at a local timber yard and building labourer.
1991-2 – Research assistant at Birkbeck college.
1993-9 – Postdoctoral Research Scientist Institute of Food Research Reading.
1999-2016 – Postdoctoral Research Scientist Institute of Food Research Norwich.
2016 – Events support at the Forum in Norwich
2017 – Lab technician Crowshall Veterinary Services LLP
Crowshall Veterinary Services LLP
Favourite thing to do in my job: Clearing a backlog of samples and continuing to learn about how and why we do the tests we do.
About Me: I am a former research scientist now working part time as a technician at a poultry veterinary diagnostic laboratory. I also chair Norfolk and Norwich Science Association a voluntary organisation that does science communication at events throughout the Norwich area and beyond.
I am a father of 2 (both have finished university) living to the East of Norwich in Norfolk. I went to school in Norwich, did my degree in Pathobiology at Reading and a PhD in London working on a small part of the AIDS virus’ replication machinery.
I worked at the Institute of Food Research (IFR) as a postdoctoral researcher (often referred to as a ‘postdoc’) for ages (nearly 25 years…) and in that time I’ve done a wide range of projects ranging from improving enzymes used in washing powders (lipases), through cloning genes from Guava for flavour production to working with bad bugs like Campylobacter and Clostridia. Most of this has involved molecular biological techniques (cloning, genetic engineering) as well as simple things like hitting a frozen guava with a hammer!
Nearly 4 years ago I took early retirement, and after taking a year out, fell into working part time as a lab technician at a large poultry veterinary diagnostic lab. This involves carrying out a range of diagnostic tests to ensure the health and safety of birds in the food chain.
The work is very different from research and I’ve enjoyed the transfer of skills as well as learning new ones.
I love communicating the science I am involved with and have been doing it for nearly 20 years initially with IFR and latterly with a local voluntary organisation, the Norfolk and Norwich Science Association (www.norfolknorwichsciassociation.org). I give talks and deliver hands on activities at public events and schools covering a wide range of science.
I won the food zone of IAS in 2013 and am happy to return to the platform in these different times.
Otherwise I am a keen photographer and enjoy walking.
My Work: Lab technician at a vets lab testing birds to see why they are sick and keeping them healthy.
My current job is as a laboratory technician working in a diagnostic lab as part of a poultry veterinary practice in Norfolk. The work is varied running different tests using a range of microbiological and biochemical techniques such as selective culturing, ELISA and PCR. We carry out routine screening tests to ensure flocks are free from diseases such as Salmonella as well as tests on flocks with problems to diagnose the issue allowing the vets to ensure effective treatment. One of the skills I’ve had to learn is the ability to crack 2 eggs at a time!
My Typical Day: Because of Covid 19 we have split into 2 shifts at work and I currently work 1:30-8:30 pm. When I get to work it is a case of seeing what samples have come in over the last day, which need testing first and then getting on with it. There is a mix of lab work and inputting data. It can be repetitive (such as cracking 700 eggs), but also varied so it is rarely boring.
Covid 19 has meant that we have split our workforce into 2 shifts, one working 6:30 am – 1:30 pm and the other, the shift I work, 1:30 pm – 8:30 pm. I work 3 days a week. The day starts with us checking to see what the morning shift have done, what samples have come in and working out what has priority. Then it is a case of getting on with it. Mostly I do serology (Rapid Serum Agglutination assays and ELISAs), Campylobacter identification via a LAMP assay or Salmonella testing on eggs. The Covid 19 issue means we have to work mainly on our own in labs which is a bit lonely at times but might increase the productivity…. We have to work to defined standards and methods to ensure the results we get are reliable and consistent – this is called Quality Assurance and there are a range of regulations and standards covering what we do.
At the end of the day we ensure test results are accurately entered into the database for the vets to see, store any untested samples and clean down the labs – this is important in preventing cross contamination causing false results.
What I'd do with the prize money: Donate it to the Teacher Scientist Network, an organistation I’ve borrowed many kits from for school activities over the last few years.
The Teacher Scientist Network (http://www.tsn.org.uk/) is a charity based on the Norwich Research Park whose aim is to enhance science education by bringing together the science and education communities. One of their resources is a library of science kits available for loan to local schools to support science teaching. Over the last few years I have borrowed several of these kits to help with my science activities at various schools and other public events. All for free. So I would like to be able to donate the money to them to continue to provide this valuable and well used resource.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Chaotic, creative and likeable.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
A professor at university
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Of course! But nothing too serious – honest.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Work at a science museum
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Don’t really have a favourite as such. I like a wide range of music from film scores to obscure French jazz. But I guess the 80’s is my era so I’ll say Fish.
What's your favourite food?
Love a good burger
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Difficult to decide this one, flying a plane, getting a laugh on stage or getting married.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Be more organised, more positive and more successful.
Tell us a joke.
What do you use to mend stringed instruments? - Cello tape......