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Practical science: the lab technician

Pat Edwards is a Research Support Technician in the Structural Studies Division at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge. She spoke to The Long+Short about her job.

Pat Edwards

Pat Edwards (Image copyright: Chris Tate)

I suppose I am an archetypal technician. We have a lot of new people just trying to work out what’s going on, so I’m a knowledge base for a lot of the things, the methods and technologies, which go on in the lab.

We do structural biology of membrane proteins, which has huge implications for medicine. I do anything from expressing those proteins, to purification and crystallisation. I work with my boss and a postdoc on a project that will change depending on who that is. My work is acknowledged and I am always on the papers that result from it.

My background is an applied biology degree. I was interested in doing science, but not in doing a PhD – I’m not very good at studying, but I’m a very practical person. My first job was actually here in the LMB, and I guess I really learnt the trade, if you could call it that, in the lab – which is really the more practical side of science. Read more

Parliament from the inside

Every year scientists and policymakers pair up and shadow each other as part of the Royal Society’s Pairing Scheme. Two MRC researchers have recently completed a Week in Westminster. Here Dr Angela Attwood, a research fellow at the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol, found that its the librarians, clerks and advisors who are the key contacts in Westminster. In a separate post, Dr Helen Chappell finds that Parliament is crying out for research findings.

Andrew Miller MP addresses pairing scheme participants

Andrew Miller MP addresses pairing scheme participants (Image copyright: The Royal Society)

 

In recent years, the UK government has been strongly advocating evidence-based policy making informed by cutting edge scientific research.

As a psychologist I can identify how my findings may inform policy, but identifying ways to get my findings to policy-makers is much more challenging. This was one of the main reasons why I chose to take part in the pairing scheme.

Every scientist who takes part in the scheme is paired with an MP or civil servant, and half of the week spent in Westminster allows time for shadowing. I was paired with liberal democrat MP Stephen Williams, who is also the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and a fellow (adopted) Bristolian. Read more

Scientists: your Parliament needs you!

Every year scientists and policymakers pair up and shadow each other as part of the Royal Society’s Pairing Scheme. Two MRC researchers have recently completed a Week in Westminster. Here Dr Helen Chappell, a researcher at MRC Human Nutrition Research in Cambridge, tells us how she found a policy-making system on the lookout for scientific expertise. Her counterpart Dr Angela Attwood writes in a separate post.   

Andrew Miller MP addresses pairing scheme participants

Andrew Miller MP addresses pairing scheme participants (Image copyright: The Royal Society)

 

In January a new exhibition will open at the Science Museum London. Churchill’s Scientists is dedicated to one of the most famous British Prime Ministers of the twentieth century and his fascination with science and technological advancement.

Having just returned from an absorbing ‘Week in Westminster’ as part of the Royal Society’s Pairing Scheme, the exhibition is a useful reminder that science and Government are no strangers to each other. Or, at least, they shouldn’t be. Read more