Matt Mackenzie – Research Support Manager

What is your role at MRC Harwell? How long have you worked here?

I am a Research Support Manager in the Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) unit and I have worked at the Mary Lyon Centre for 6 years.

My role involves managing our incoming projects to ensure the timely generation of mouse models for clients and assisting in the subsequent quality control (QC). I am also one of the project leads for the Haem cluster of the MRC National Mouse Genetics Network, acting as the point of contact between the cluster and the Mary Lyon Centre. I am trained in various aspects of the workflow, providing additional assistance as and when the workload dictates.

What is your career/education background?

I studied genetics at the University of Liverpool, including a year in industry which I undertook in a forensics laboratory. My first job post-graduation was working as a research assistant for a gene therapy company, which gave me experience of working with plasmids, lentiviruses and cell culture. During that time, CRISPR was quickly taking hold as the next big advancement in genome engineering so I applied for a job here in the MCB team.

Did you see yourself doing this kind of job when you were younger?

I always enjoyed biology when I was at school and it was during my college studies that genetics piqued my interest. I enjoy dabbling in mechanics in my spare time and it was a similar fascination that I had from a biological perspective; understanding how our bodies work, what causes disease and, in particular, how we can cure disease. When it came time to decide what to study at university, choosing a genetics course was the next logical step.

What do you enjoy most about your job/working at MRC Harwell?

I enjoy the variety of my workload and that we are always looking at advances in genome engineering and how they can be applied to our workflow. I also enjoy all the available training opportunities. 

How has your role changed?

I started here as a research assistant, cutting my teeth in generating genetically modified mice and carrying out the associated QC, and jumping on any training opportunities that arose. I now sit in a more senior role, drawing on my experience to provide training and assistance to new research assistants, whilst overseeing parts of our workflow to ensure the smooth running and delivery of our projects.

What advice do you give to new colleagues starting in junior roles?

If I could go back and give advice to my younger self, it would be that no one is expected to know it all and understand everything right away. And that holds true no matter what level you are at. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, as there will always be at least one other person in the room who will be thinking the same thing.

What are the skills you have gained during your career that have made the biggest impact?

The skill that has made the biggest impact on me sounds simple but is often overlooked. Rather than jumping on a project/assignment/request straight away and rushing to get it done, take a breath and a step back to look at the wider picture. Do I have all the information I need to get it done? Do I have a plan? What outcome am I expecting? How does this fit in with what we are doing? Do I need to bring anyone else in on this? Asking myself these questions (and others) means that I have a clearer plan; it is less likely that something will trip me up and if it does I should be able to deal with it more effectively.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work I enjoy mechanics/cars, motorsport, music and gaming.

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