Supporting career progression for technicians

2 min read

As part of the recent Technician Week at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB), Mary Lyon Centre (MLC) Pathology Technician Tina Etemadi gave a talk about her experience of the Holger Kramer Technician Exchange Programme. This programme allowed her to spend a week in October of last year shadowing Pier Andrée Penttilä, the Head of the Flow Cytometry department at the LMB.

The Holger Kramer Technician Exchange Programme was first started in 2019 as a collaboration between the MLC, the LMB in Cambridge, and the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences (LMS) in London to provide technicians with the opportunity to spend time in facilities at other MRC institutes and receive training in new techniques. The programme was recently named in honour of Holger Kramer, a former head of the LMB’s Mass Spectrometry facility and former Head of Biological Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics at LMS, who sadly died in 2022 at the age of 43.

Tina’s career in science started by work shadowing biomedical scientists in a hospital in Tehran, Iran, before completing a BSc in Biomedical Science at the University of Reading and then an MSc in Infection and Immunity at the University of Leicester. She is now a Pathology Technician here at the MLC and performs a range of techniques in haematology analysis, necropsy, and clinical chemistry. During her week at the LMB, she learnt the basics of flow cytometry, techniques for working with mouse spleen and liver, and how to analyse flow cytometry data, all of which she was able to bring back with her to her work at the MLC and will take forward in her future career.

Tina: “I highly recommend taking part in the Technician Exchange Programme – it’s a great opportunity to delve into what other MRC sites do and to broaden your skillset and knowledge on certain techniques and generally aid in continuous professional development! I’m also really grateful to Pier Andrée for tailoring the week to my needs.”

The seminar also included talks by Fan Zhang, from the LMB’s Flow Cytometry department, and work experience student Agatha Ward. Fan talked about her experiences taking part in the Herschel Programme for Women in Technical Leadership, a programme designed to elevate and advance opportunities for women who are current or aspiring leaders in technical roles. Agatha is a student at the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology, studying for T-Levels (post-GCSE courses equivalent to A-Levels, with a focus on vocational and technical skills). Her course requires her to complete 315 hours of work experience, which she has been doing at the LMB, rotating through various scientific facilities to gain an insight into the different kinds of work done in each department.

One of the aims of the Holger Kramer Technician Exchange Programme was to mirror the kind of support that has traditionally been reserved for PhD students and post-doctoral researchers by encouraging technicians to visit other labs to learn from them and make new connections. Together these talks represent an increasing focus across the scientific community on career development in technical roles, through skills acquisition, networking, and support of career development from the earliest stages through to transition to leadership/management positions. The MRC has provided the MLC, LMB, and LMS with funding to support activities that fall under the Technician Commitment. This programme sits within the Career Development pillar in our Technician Commitment Action Plan. We look forward to supporting more similar exchanges!

Image credit: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

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