Technicians behind the scenes at Aston University – Interview with Technical Manager, Jiteen Ahmed
In April’s newsletter we caught up with Lab Innovations advisory board member, Jiteen Ahmed, Technical Manager at Aston University.
Jiteen, who is also Chair of the Laboratory Group at SUPC and Chair of the STEMed National Procurement Group, has been busy working with lab technicians, doing their bit for the NHS to control the spread of COVID-19.
So, Jiteen, what have the technical staff at Aston University been up to behind the scenes recently?
Our technical staff have been amazing, for example, our IT technical colleagues have worked extraordinarily hard to ensure that the transition from face to face teaching to online teaching has gone smoothly. Their contribution was essential as without their expertise we wouldn’t be able to deliver our teaching programmes online and support our students remotely.
Technical colleagues across Aston’s laboratories have been working extremely hard too. They enabled the safe and successful shutdown of both teaching and research labs and utilised their technical expertise and ‘make it happen’ attitude to manufacture hand sanitiser and collect and deliver PPE and medical supplies to the NHS. These latter activities, in direct response to the combined effort to tackle COVID-19, have really boosted the morale of the academic and technical community during these challenging times.
Technicians have a ‘make it happen’ attitude. As a lab technician yourself, what is the best piece of career advice you ever received?
Never think anything is impossible and if you believe in yourself and learn from your colleagues, you will succeed. I always give that advice to Undergraduate and Postgraduate students and tech staff. Always believe and never give up.
Tell us about what excites you the most about working in the HE sector?
Both the teaching and research excite me, I feel research is important in the HE sector as it informs the teaching that is given to our undergraduates. I love seeing the amazing experiments that we run in our research facilities, as a young child, I always dreamt of being in labs and seeing these experiments being run! I love the collaborative nature of the HE sector as well, we have some amazing colleagues across the HE sector who work in various fields so collaboration not only helps improve ourselves but support each other when we need help.
Laboratories consume enormous amounts of energy at universities around the world, sometimes using roughly 4 times more energy than office spaces of the same size. What sort of initiatives do technicians at Aston University approach to make the labs more sustainable?
We educate our students in ensuring that they use the fume cupboards correctly, turn off electricity and water when not in use; however, we also help inform the purchase of equipment, we take sustainability seriously here at Aston University and so we always try and purchase the most sustainable equipment out there! We work with suppliers to gain a better understanding of the equipment by attending events such as Lab Innovations. We also use frameworks that support sustainability such as the IRLA (Inter Regional Laboratory Agreement) Consumables and Chemicals framework (supported by the SUPC – Southern Universities Purchasing Consortia) which include sustainability in the framework agreement. This looks at the number of deliveries to the site, suppliers being asked about environmental impacts and so on. We also use the London Universities Purchasing Consortia (LUPC) Equipment Framework which has a massive sustainability element in the framework agreement.
Finally, it might be a difficult one to predict, but what do you think the laboratory industry can expect in the next 12 months?
It depends on what impact COVID-19 and Brexit have on the industry, there are some interesting times ahead!