Faculty of Biological Sciences Away Day was a Tour de Force

Once again technicians in the Faculty of Biological Sciences took responsibility for planning and implementing a program of activities, designed to learn more about themselves and their colleagues.

Drawing of a Technician tour bus.

The sixth FBS technician’s away day proved to be the best yet according to feedback received at the end of the day and much of the credit goes to Jennie Hibbard who organised the event along with a committee of technicians representing all technical roles in the Faculty.

The day started with an introduction and welcome from Jackie Goodall, the Technical Services Manager.  This was followed by the Dean, John Ladbury, who expressed the fundamental input the technicians provide to the Faculty and the news that Research funding in the Faculty had doubled from 2014. He highlighted that technical input is fundamental giving the example of when the Faculty opened the new teaching block earlier this year the smooth transition had been achieved by the technical staff, and that the big refurbishment projects currently ongoing will require technical support and input to ensure they run smoothly.

Next up, an extremely insightful talk given by Tim Peakman, the UoL’s Chief Operating Officer. Tim talked about the changing environment, and how it is less stable and more challenging, and the pace of change is accelerating. He talked about the demographic of HE, international competition, sustainability and reduced student fees. He also touched upon unconscious bias being introduced into AI when it comes to vetting students and interdisciplinary research to bridge between clinical science and basic bioscience. Tim took many questions from the participants and it was encouraging to see such engagement and interest between the technicians and Tim regarding the implications on what he had to say for both the Faculty and the Technicians themselves.

This was followed by a very informative and inspirational talk by Sandra Taylor, a Senior Research Technician at the University of Manchester.  She took us through her whole career covering three decades and two institutions and how she navigated her work life from taking a break during motherhood to getting back into the work place. She mentioned many achievements, including a number of publications of which she was named.  She is also a Science Council and Institute of Science and Technology Registration champion.

Next up was a Time Management workshop given by Katie Leeman, Development and Learning Advisor from OD&PL. Technicians were split into small groups in three different rooms for discussions and each group was facilitated by a volunteer. The discussions were based around “time bandits” (those things in the day that steal your time) and finding solutions for them.  Thanks to Lewis, Fiona, Upasana, Andy, and Laura for volunteering to facilitate the workshop. The groups went on to discover more about Stephen Covey’s Prioritisation matrix- this was a self-reflecting individual exercise and was well received by many to provide insight into their working style.

As a fun activity during lunch, a group of interesting facts had to be matched to the name of a technician. This proved quite hard and required an awful lot of guess work! Bev Merry was the winner and won a box of chocolates.

After lunch, there were wonderful presentations given by technicians working in very different areas emphasizing the broad range and variety of work that takes place within the technical team.  Showcasing their work was Tayah Hopes, who carries out research into specialized ribosomes using Cryo-EM and Sue Holmes, a technician at the University’s Farm.

The talks were followed by an activity to understand our stress responses organized by Nicola Neath, Staff Counsellor and Marcus Hill from OD&PL. This was a fun exercise which emphasized the importance of how we all respond to the same situation differently given the four options to choose from; fight/flight/freeze/ok.

Image showing the three responses.Last on the agenda was ‘Technicians on Tour’; lab visits to four very diverse areas of interest and expertise. Participants were split into four groups and each area visited in turn where they were shown round by the specialist technician in charge. This included a talk explaining the nature of the work and an opportunity to ask questions. The areas visited included:

• The Environment Suite, where Jill Daniel demonstrated the facility used by sports and exercise scientists where temperature and humidity can be controlled and body conditions monitored.

• The opportunity to look round the newly built Willow Terrace teaching laboratories, where Chris Jones explained how the labs were designed and how practical classes run.

• The Electron Microscopy Suite, where we were all in awe of the scale of the microscopes and the images they can produce as explained by Martin Fuller

• The Plant Growth Suite, consisting of greenhouses, plant growth rooms and growth chambers where Fiona Moulton explained the research taking place.

Collection of photos of various area in FBS.This proved to be a very popular element of the day, giving technicians a chance to see an area of the Faculty other than their own and an opportunity to stretch their feet!

The day was rounded off with tea and cake and warm thanks from Slobodan Babic, Technical Resource Manager to all participants and the away day organising committee.

Article by Luke Blumler, cartoons by Andy West 

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