Fifteen to One | Amelia Lesiuk

As we celebrate technicians during Technicians Week, Amelia Lesiuk gives some insight into the work being done to support the technical community and also shares her career journey at Leeds.

Fifteen to One with Amelia Lesiuk, September 2023

Technicians Week 2023 is the first of its kind, offering development opportunities for technicians and encouraging colleagues across the University to explore different facilities and equipment on campus, and find out about the amazing work that happens behind the scenes. Discover what Amelia is most looking forward to during Technicians Week, how she went from Laboratory Assistant to Lead Technician, and what her role entails on the Technician Commitment Working Group.

Can you describe your role in 100 words?

As Lead Technician in the Faculty of Biological Sciences, I work closely with the technical management team to ensure the research and teaching laboratory service operates efficiently. I look after a small technical team in the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology and allocate technical support as required. We provide practical support, advice, and safety guidance to researchers on experimental techniques and technical issues. We contribute to developing and implementing local policies and processes, identifying enhancements, such as new techniques or equipment, and improving existing procedures or cost-saving measures. We support the lab relocations for the research groups and contribute to the refurbishment and development projects within the School and the Faulty.

When did you join the University?

I joined the University as a Laboratory Assistant in FBS in 2008. Since then, I have worked in a variety of technical roles. I became a Research Technician in 2010 and a Senior Research Technician in Protein Purification in 2016. Working in the protein biology field for eight years enabled me to achieve expertise in a wide variety of expression systems and purification methodologies but also shaped my organisational and lab managerial skills. In 2018, I became the Laboratory Area Coordinator. I worked with approximately fifty Principal Investigators and their research groups. I was responsible for the day-to-day management of the research laboratories located across four buildings and two Schools in FBS. At that time, I started to manage the research technicians and support academics in the recruitment and staff review processes for technicians. In October 2022, I successfully applied to the Lead Technician position.

What is the Technician Commitment Working Group and why is it important for technicians?

The Technician Commitment Working Group is the interface with the technical community. We are mainly made up of technical staff, with a “for technicians, by technicians” ethos, representing the views of our wider technical community. 

The Technician Commitment is a national initiative that the University signed up to in 2018 where it pledged to support technicians in four key areas: visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability.

The key projects that the TCWG has been focusing on recently are:

My role on the working group is to coordinate networking events, such as network meetings and coffee meetings. I am also one of the members of the Technician Survey Task Group and been heavily involved in planning the content and launch of the survey. I am looking forward to developing new actions to support technicians once the results of the survey are back.

What are you most looking forward to during Technicians Week?

I must comment that I am extremely impressed with the committee that organised Technicians Week this year as this is going to be an amazing week of development opportunities for technicians. I am going to join technical tours in the faculties that I haven’t visited before such as stage@leeds, the School of Design, the library and HELIX. I am also planning to test my Lego-building skills and make a car. There are some training sessions that I may attend to refresh my soft skills (assertiveness and time management) and I am also looking forward to the TechExchange event and the BBQ! 

What was your first job?

I had my very first paid job when I was 15-16 years old, and it was in the garden centre. I did quite a lot of different tasks like potting, sowing seeds, watering, and tidying up. I worked there only one weekend just to see what it was like to be at work. It was enough to appreciate high school and focus on it!

What’s the most common question you’ve been asked in your role?

“I need some advice – would you be free to have a chat” or “are you the right person to ask about…”

What are your campus highlights?

Despite working for over 15 years at the University, the Parkinson Building still impresses me. My favourite place to take a break from a busy schedule is the Roger Stevens pond.

What do you wish people knew about your role?

This is a difficult one… I would like people to know that I will always try to help them. However, sometimes things cannot be done immediately because of external factors. In some circumstances, it can be beneficial if things are properly thought through, and people are consulted. That can take some time…

Is there something, or someone, that has inspired you in your career?

I was lucky enough to work with some incredibly inspiring academic colleagues at the start of my technician career: Prof Stephen Baldwin, Dr Vincent Postis and Dr Gerard Huysmans. I was a fresh graduate and hadn’t had much laboratory experience in Protein Biology, but I was genuinely fascinated and tried to learn as much as I could from them. I never thought that doing the radiation safety course to perform a few transport assay experiments would result in becoming the FBS Radiation Safety Coordinator 10 years later. 

Currently, I am inspired by my technical work colleagues and how we are helping and supporting each other. It really feels like a warm and friendly community.

What’s your biggest achievement or something you’re really proud of?

In my professional career, my biggest achievement was probably winning the RSci category of the Science Council’s CPD Awards Scheme in 2019. I was nominated by my work colleague, Laura Musgrove, who noticed that I had invested a lot of time and effort in my personal development (I have done that to just be better at my job). It was a huge surprise and totally unexpected. I attended the CPD Awards Ceremony in London and did a 10-minute presentation about the benefit of CPD to my career. In 2022, I had an opportunity to shortlist the candidates for the Science Council Awards.

What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career that you know now?

I don’t think I would have liked to know at the start of my career what I know now. From my perspective as an experienced science technician, I think that learning (also from mistakes) and gaining experience is a beautiful and exciting process. By knowing too much I could have lost the excitement that accompanied me throughout the stages of my career that I have been on so far. 

What was your dream job when you were a child?

I had a few dream jobs when I was a kid. One of these was being a designer. I was drawing a lot. It started with illustrated books, then fashion and finished with buildings. I also played tennis regularly and I thought about becoming a professional tennis player. In secondary school, my interests changed, and I was passionate about physics and chemistry and thought about creating and testing new materials. There was a time when I saw myself becoming a surgeon, but I was never good at biology and... I decided to study biology!

What makes you laugh the most?

Jokes made by my good friends and my family members, especially my son and my brother. We probably have a very similar sense of humour and always laugh at each other.

What do you do to relax away from work?

I always try to clear my mindset and disconnect from work with sports activities. I love racquet sports (tennis, table tennis, badminton, and squash) but I must admit I haven’t played tennis and squash since the COVID-19 pandemic. I used to run 5 and 10k, but now I do more walking, hiking, and swimming instead. I visit Golden Acre Park quite often to feed squirrels. To slow down, I like cooking and baking, BBQs, and reading books. I never read one book at a time. I have about six started now, and depending on my mood, I choose which one I want to read (I do remember what the books are about!). In the last year, I mastered various types of knots and did a lot of macramé. 

Where’s your favourite travel destination and why?

My favourite place to visit is Kolobrzeg in Poland. It is a small, green, and beautiful town on the Baltic Sea with a lot of things to do.

Posted in: