TechNet Newsletter #4, Summer 2016

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by technicians for technicians

Welcome to the fourth TechNet e-newsletter

The e-newsletter will appear quarterly, generally after each TechNet event. This is your way to catch up on what's happening within the technical community at Sheffield. Take a look at what happened at the previous event and tell us what you want to see for future sessions by emailing us at


Upcoming Events:

Teaching, Training & Recognition: 19th July 2016


About TechNet:

TechNet was established in 2014 at the University of Sheffield. It is a new way for technicians to discuss, collaborate and improve the way they work. 

  • Meet up with other technicians to share ideas and solve problems
  • Draw on the skills of technicians who can help make your job easier
  • Join an online community to find new ideas and better ways of working

TechNet Event: Close Encounters with a Technical Mind

Laura Mason presenting at Close Encounters event
Audience at Close Encounters Event
Audience at Close Encounters Event
Networking at Close Encounters Event

The latest TechNet Event was a great success, with over 60 people attending to listen to technicians from across the five different faculties at the University of Sheffield talk about their roles.

The event, which took place in Firth Hall on the 19th of April, had presentations from four technicians, while a fifth speakers video presentation was shared on the TechNet forum following the event.

The technicians talked about their career pathways, with each person presenting a completely different journey of how they got to be in their current role. 

We have created a storify of the event with the speakers presentations available. 

"I gained a brief understanding of the different roles and levels of technicians within the University. Their enthusiasm was exemplary and i would like to commend all the speakers on the day."

"I was amazed and impressed with the work and research these people were involved with."

Have you seen the new TechNet website? 

The new TechNet website has all the information you need on TechNet and Professional registration. Find out about upcoming TechNet events, how you can get involved and useful contacts. Find out how to apply for professional registration, read case studies of technicians who are professionally registered at different levels and check out the videos of TechNet members talking about why they chose to become professionally registered, just like John-Paul in the video below.
Visit the site at

Technical Spotlight: Linda Kay

My name is Linda Kay and my background is Zoology having graduated from the University of North Wales, Bangor with a BSc Hons in Zoology with Marine Zoology. In 1999, I joined the Department of Pharmacology as a teaching technician. In addition to my role within the undergraduate teaching laboratories I also worked within the laboratory of Dr Peter Peachell carrying out research. It was through this research that I obtained a PhD as a part-time staff candidate.

After a few departmental mergers I am currently a research technician in the Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease (IICD) supporting research within the laboratories of both Prof Ian Sabroe and Dr Peter Peachell. My day-to-day role within the department is very varied, ranging from clinical trial work, presenting at meetings, supervising project students to general laboratory management duties. Here I will expand on two areas.

Through Prof Ian Sabroe (who is a respiratory physician) I have been involved in a few clinical trials run through the Clinical Research Facility (CRF) both at the Northern General Hospital and the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, providing valuable technical support by processing blood and sputum samples. I have been involved in the setting up of a clinical trial through to the actual laboratory work, giving me a valuable insight into the workings of clinical trials.
In addition to participating in collaborative research projects, through working with Dr Peter Peachell, I have developed my own research. This has resulted in presenting this research at international meetings. I am also a co-author on 10 scientific journal publications. This May, I attended the European Histamine Research Society (EHRS) annual meeting in Florence, Italy, where I gave an oral presentation entitled ‘The histamine H4 receptor mediates chemotaxis in human lung mast cells’, which was well received by conference attendees. I also chaired a poster session entitled ‘Histamine in the Central Nervous System’. The research that I presented this year was a continuation of the research that I presented at the 2013 EHRS meeting, where I won first prize for the poster presentation and was able to establish a collaboration with Janssen Research and Development, San Diego. Through this collaboration I was able to obtain pharmacological tools that are not commercially available. The EHRS meetings are attended by renowned scientists from around the world from both academia and industry, giving me the opportunity to discuss my research with scientists from around the world.

Overall, I would say that the opportunities that I have had, especially presenting at international meetings, has aided both my personal development and my standing within the scientific community. If you want to do something, then go for it, you have nothing to lose!

-Dr Linda Kay, MIScT, RSci

IST Logo

IST Professional Registration and Assessor Training

Thinking about joining a professional body and becoming professionally registered? Give yourself the competitive edge and enhance your career progression. For further details go to the IST website:

The date for the next IST assessor training is the 12th of July, from 1pm to 5pm at the University of Sheffield. This event is for those already professionally registered at Registered Scientist (RSci) or Chartered Scientist (CSci). 

For more information or to book a place please contact:
Natalie Kennerley
Michelle Jackson

IST one day Technical Conference 2016

Two technicians at work
Date: 15th September 2016
Venue: Manchester Conference Centre, Sackville Street, Manchester, M1 3BB
This exciting one day conference and its talks/workshops offer you an opportunity to update technical knowledge, skills, and further your career development. It will also provide valuable networking opportunities to engage and learn from other technical staff and technical supervisors/managers. 

Helen Sharman, IST President and first Brit in space, will make her Keynote speech on "Travels with a Space Technician".
For professionally registered delegates, the conference and its talks/workshops will contribute significantly to your professional and personal development (PPD). 

IST Conference information on Outstanding apprentice/trainee award
To book your place please fill out the booking form and send it to Wendy Mason
Tel: 0114 276 3197

Review: Scientific Laboratory Show and Conference

Over 1000 people attended the Scientific Laboratory Show and Conference on the 25th of May this year. The show, organised by the Science Council and Scientific Laboratory Supplies,  took place in the East Midlands Conference Centre at the University of Nottingham. The IST had a stand in the Professional Development zone and had a busy day talking to delegates about the benefits of professional registration.

There was much for delegates to do with lectures, masterclasses, workshops and exhibition stands, as well as some more unusual conference activities. Guests could relax  between networking with a hand massage or manicure by some of the University’s trainee technicians, get their caricatures drawn or dress up and visit the photo booth with colleagues for a great conference memento. Yet by far the most popular stand in the exhibition hall was the liquid nitrogen ice cream!

The lectures were compered by science writer and broadcaster Vivienne Parry OBE. Vivienne and the keynote speakers took the audience on a journey of real world applications of science. Ian Campbell and Steve Ingham demonstrated the ‘Science behind sport’ and how scientists and science technicians are helping athletes train for the upcoming Rio Olympics. In ‘Cooking with science’ Peter Barnham, who has worked with Heston Blumenthal, persuaded us that chefs should be collaborating with scientists when it comes to cooking our food. Peter conducted his own experiment and lured members of the audience into being his guinea pigs with the promise of wine tasting. What he told them, and us, afterwards was that the red wine the volunteers had classified as fruity, was actually the exact same white wine they had just tasted but with the addition of red dye.

Belinda Philips, CEO of the Science Council, spoke about the need for ‘trust and professionalism in science’ while Mark Hirst from the Open University gave a live demonstration of remotely operating technology in labs in Milton Keynes in ‘Science at a Distance’.

The School Zone was an area dedicated to science in schools, with talks and workshops aimed at school science technicians. The Professional Development Zone contained representatives from many professional bodies, with the Science Council putting on Professional Development Masterclasses throughout the day. These masterclasses can be accessed online.
Watch this video on the University of Sheffield project ShARM - making the most of mouse models for ageing research

Recognition Corner 

Fiona Wright
Technician at Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease

Nominated by Mark Ariaans and Yvonne Stephenson, Lead Technicians at IICD

We are nominating Fiona for her hard work in setting up a dedicated histology facility in our newly merged department of Infection, Immunity & Cardiovascular Disease (IICD). Fiona was one of the first technicians to actively bridge the gap between the two old departments of Cardiovascular Science and Infection & Immunity. She did this by introducing new tools and techniques to staff and students in the new department and offering them experimental and analytical support for their histology activities.

Fiona started work at the university in 2004 in the histology core facility, before joining the Department of Infection & Immunity in 2010. With her extensive knowledge and experience in the field she was able to optimise the procedures carried out by some of our researchers and suggest improvements to outdated or time-consuming methods that were still in use within individual research groups. On top of that, the facility generates income from external sources that can be utilised to improve our facilities and support the professional development needs of our technical team.

She also deserves praise for her outstanding charity fundraising activities for the Nephrology research unit. Such activities are not always formally recognised by departments, but they play an important part in modern-day research as we increasingly rely heavily on charity donations and a good standing with the general public.

If you would like to  find out more about Fiona's work, you can contact her at:

Nominations for 'Recognition Corner'

Thank you and smiley face on a yellow post it note
We would like to make 'Recognition Corner' a regular feature in the newsletter. This is a place where you can nominate your colleagues for something they have achieved or you think they deserve recognition for. This can be anything from success in a particular project to always having a positive attitude. Maybe your colleague went out of their way to help you work a bit of equipment? Or you've noticed they are passionate about teaching their students? Then you could make sure their contributions are acknowledged publicly in the TechNet Newsletter!

To nominate a colleague, just send in their name, email address, department and a short paragraph on why they deserve recognition. Please send these to Natalie Kennerley at or Kevin Oxley at

Lisa Hollands and Natalie Kennerley at the TechNet stand at RICON

RICON Review

TechNet was at the Conference for Research and Innovation Supporters on the 14th of June. This one day event, held in the University of Sheffield's Octagon Centre, was designed specifically for professionals who support research and/or innovation activities. With over 250 delegates registered, it was busy day of university networking.

We had a stand in the marketplace promoting TechNet and giving out our great new TechNet badges (pick yours up at our next event in July). The marketplace was full of stands promoting resources for university professionals, from Library Research Services to Biological Services. Browsing the stands, delegates could get advice and information and pick up the usual free pens and chocolates, as well as the more unusual chilli and lime flavour edible insects. After the PVC for Research and Innovation, Professor Richard Jones, spoke about the University’s future as a world leading research institution, the Director of Operations from both the Arts and Humanities and Engineering faculties spoke about the important role of professionals in helping the University achieve this. Then it was time for the conference sessions on topics ranging from ‘productive partnerships’ to ‘public engagement and impact’.

You can view the full conference programme here and a storify of the event created by the RICON team here

Have you seen the new-look TDM website?

With all the most up to date information on the project and the toolkit it is producing to help technicians in universities across England.

One +1.  Work experience for those without connections.

Are you taking your son, niece or a client’s child on work experience this summer? Could you offer an extra placement to a young person without connections?
The Social Mobility Foundation’s (SMF) new campaign makes it easy for professionals to offer an additional work experience placement to a bright student without connections. If you are arranging a work experience placement for a friend or relative this summer, an SMF student could be their +1.
If you work in Banking & Finance, Engineering, Science or Medicine, and could take a sixth form student on work experience, The SMF would love to hear from you. They work with students in six target cities: Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester. For more information visit: or call 0207 183 1189  
The Social Mobility Foundation supports high-achieving young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into the top universities and professions.

Science Technicians: the invisible workforce?

 I have been a technician for 44 years. Thirty-seven of these have been spent working in microbiology laboratories in four departments in three universities: London, Oxford, and now Newcastle.

Science is a dynamic process. Technicians need to update their skills if they are not to erode and eventually become redundant over time. An example of this is the evolution of DNA sequencing over the last 25 years.

I first started sequencing DNA in 1990 using the existing Sanger method. Every aspect of this method was labour intensive from preparing the shotgun DNA libraries, running, fixing, and developing the gels, then digitising the data into the computer and using the first generation Staden computer programs to put the contiguous sequence together. It took two of us nine months to sequence 21.8kb of the major strain of Variola virus (smallpox).

In the mid-1990s ABI DNA sequencing technology superseded the Sanger method along with robots for preparing the DNA from shotgun libraries and improved computer programs to construct the contiguous DNA sequence and its subsequent analysis. This new technology allowed research laboratories working on the same microorganism to form a consortium to sequence whole genomes.

Last week I utilised the New Generation Sequencing (NGS) developed by the company Illumina to sequence 15 bacterial genomes. I took a few days to prepare the DNA samples and the MySeq Illumina sequencing machine took 65 hours to sequence the genomes! I already know that there is a robot available to prepare the DNA samples for sequencing!

The advancement of DNA sequencing technology is just one example of how science and technology has developed and changed during my technical career.

To enable the technical workforce in STEM subjects to maintain, develop and update their skill sets the Science Council and 10 of its professional member organisations,


including the Royal Society of Biology, have now created a national framework of professional benchmarks to reflect the professionalism and skills of the technical workforce.

The benchmarks are: Registered Science Technician (RSciTech); Registered Scientist (RSci); and Chartered Scientist (CSci). Registration with the appropriate professional body at one of these benchmark levels will give you professional recognition and status. To maintain your status you will be required to provide evidence of ‘continuous professional development’, (CPD) each year. You will also be able to use CPD to develop your skill set to the next level of registration as your experience and updated education evolves, perhaps by utilising courses provided by HEaTED.

Employers are starting to utilise and quote these professional benchmarks in job advertisements. If you can prove you are professionally registered and can demonstrate that you have been doing CPD this will give you a selective advantage.

Many technical posts in universities are supported by soft money for the lifetime of an academic grant, usually 3-5 years, so professional registration and CPD will become increasingly important to the individual technician when applying for a new position.

Technical staff, although visible locally, are invisible as a work force nationally. Professional registration will raise their status and visibility as a profession. I would encourage all technical staff working in STEM subjects to consider applying for professional registration.Speech Marks Close

- Ian Selmes, RSci, MRSB

This blog was originally posted on the Royal Society of Biology's website in August 2015, and was reproduced here with permission from the author.

Q&A with Ian Selmes on Professional Registration

Why did I apply?
I have been a technician for 44 years working in various roles in Microbiology, including in government research and higher education. I applied for professional registration as a Registered Science Technician so my technical skills could be measured against the national benchmark standards created by the Science Council.

How it has benefited me?
As a Registered Scientist I feel have taken ownership of my career. I am a member of the Royal Society of Biology (RSB) and have got involved in supporting and promoting registration for other technicians as an assessor and by writing a blog about my experiences. I was also invited to a gathering of successful technical staff at Newcastle University, 
who had also become professionally registered, to have drinks with the Vice Chancellor, an official event celebrating all academic, technical and administrative staff who had achieved success for the University in some way.

Who else would benefit from becoming a Registered Scientist?
Anyone in a technical science or scientific position who wants to develop their career would benefit from registration. By engaging with CPD you document your developing experience, expertise and education. This will enable you to build a professional profile to aim and apply for the next benchmark of registration. In addition, you may gain a selective advantage in the job market.

For more information and to register your place visit our website. 

HEaTED put on free networking events in regions all over the UK, as well as paid for training courses, below are dates for the next round of free networking events:

June 30th: North West Network Event, Lancaster University

September 5th: Network of Arts Technicians, North West, Salford

September 13th: Yorkshire Network Event, Sheffield

September 14th: London and South East Network Event, Oxfordshire

November 7th: Scotland Network Event, St Andrews

Technicians Make It Happen Campaign

A new campaign called ‘Technicians Make It Happen’  by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation was launched recently. The campaign aims to raise awareness of technicians in society and promote technical careers. The campaign comes in response to research by Gatsby that the UK needs 700,000 new technicians by 2020 and where “50,000 of our best technicians are retiring every year and, due to our unbalanced economy, we are unable to replace them, let alone fill the additional technician roles that are becoming available as the economy expands.”

The rationale behind the ‘Technicians Make it Happen’ campaign is recognising that technicians are the people that make things happen -  from engineers and scientists to architects and film directors, and therefore that they are vital to the UK economy. The campaign aims to promote technical careers and encourage a new wave of technicians by “raising awareness and perceptions of the role technicians play in driving the UK economy and inspiring young people with a talent for STEM subjects, their teachers and parents, to consider the benefits of a career as a technician.”

Gatsby believe that by highlighting the contribution technicians make to the UK economy,  technical careers will be more highly valued and better understood by society. The campaign focuses on ‘technician stories’ - case studies of individual technicians from a wide variety of industries, how they came to be in their current role and how they ‘make it happen’. The 2 year campaign was launched with an exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London on the 4th of April 2016. The exhibition, running until the 9th of April, showcased  technicians with photos and paintings celebrating their diverse technical roles. The exhibition will travel across the country - to find out when the exhibition will be near you, visit their website at HEaTED will be hosting the exhibition at the National STEM Learning Centre in York until the 25th of July. 

On the campaign website you can also view the increasing number of technician case studies as well as get useful information on technical careers aimed at students, parents and teachers - and compare careers with their ‘careerometer’. You can also support the campaign on social media by following @technicians_mih and using the  #techniciansmakeithappen hashtag.

TechNet: Your National Network
 Launch of NU TechNet at Newcastle University 

Natalie Kennerley and Dr John Hogan presenting at the first Newcastle University technician's meeting

 On 19th May 2016 we held our first networking meeting for technicians here at Newcastle. 100 technicians were in attendance and we had to close registration as demand outgrew the size of our chosen venue.
The event was seen as an excellent opportunity for technical staff of all disciplines and levels of experience to meet up as a University wide group. Even at a Faculty level, many technicians had never before been invited to get together, so the setup of the NU TechNet event by Bill Saint was a really important first step in encouraging technical staff to network with each other on a much larger scale than just School or Institute level.
Three guest speakers were invited and the following talks were presented to the technicians present.
  • Dr John Hogan, Newcastle University Registrar - 'Technical staff - some comparisons across research universities'.
  • Natalie Kennerley, University of Sheffield - ‘How TechNet has been successfully implemented at the University of Sheffield and its place within the nationally HEFCE funded Technical Development and Modernisation programme’.
  • PVC Professor Chris Day - ‘How I have viewed the importance of the technician - from PhD to PVC’. 
The event also included an opportunity for everyone present to contribute, by way of our interpretation of a “World Café” style exercise. The 8 tables within the room were all asked to discuss how they would like future meetings to be formed, by discussing meeting duration, frequency and format etc. Many very good ideas resulted from this initial networking, along with mainly positive feedback and we have already earmarked September 15th for our next event.
Many technicians agreed that although they knew the technical staff in their own workplace and sometimes technical colleagues from other areas of the University, there was a real lack of understanding in what went on around other areas of the Faculty / University.
NU TechNet will hopefully be a great way of communicating with technicians at other institutions as well as at home, allowing technicians get to know each other on an even wider platform.

In conclusion, we would like to especially thank Natalie for her excellent presentation and for helping us steer the “snowball” that has started to roll here at Newcastle in the right direction.

-Bill Saint & Simon Daley, 

Newcastle University

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