5 Minutes with... Laurence Dawkins-Hall
Professional Registration Support Mentor with the Science Council & Teaching Technician at the Cancer Centre, University of Leicester
What excites you in the industry?
In the increasingly technological age we live in, I think there has never been a greater need for skilled technicians. There are huge developments in Biomedical Sciences in particular, however, what is salient about todays state of the art is the fact that the breakthroughs and prospects for further developments in Biomedical Sciences and, Environmental sciences in particular, are manifestly multidisciplinary and engender skilled practitioners in biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineers and even graphic designers. The Harvard Professor of Biology, Edward O Wilson, once remarked that “The 20th century was reductionist and about taking things apart to figure out how they work, whereas the 21st century will be about putting these building blocks back together to recreate and reanimate the original avatar; including recreation of life itself!”
This “synthetic age” (as it is sometimes called) affords opportunities for skilled technicians in multiple disciplines, therefore, to play their part in addressing the global challenges paramount, but crucially solvable, in this new century we inhabit.
What do you think the biggest challenge for lab technicians will be in the next 5 years?
Based on the nature of temporary contracts and the existential crisis posed by COVID-19 perhaps the biggest challenge for technicians in the next 5 years will be job security.
What is being done to make clear career pathways for technician roles?
The Technicians Commitment, underpinned by the Gatsby Foundation and implemented through the Science Council is a University and Research Institute initiative to create greater visibility, recognition, career development, and sustainability of technical roles. Seminal in this regard and a key aspect of the commitment is professional registration, which is designed to recognise technicians for the skills they utilise in discharging their roles, including, but not limited, to technical knowledge and practical skills, communication skills, health, safety and security imperatives in their day to day endeavours. Planning, organising and discharging their own duties and those of others that they might manage.
In addition to the above, the Science Council, with support from the Gatsby Foundation, is working to grow the career pathways for technical careers through an initiative known as the Technical Pathways Programme. This initiative is seeking to ensure that technical careers are attractive and lead to professional recognition of those undertaking an apprenticeship and T-Level learners in science understanding the career options available with support from the Professional Body community.
What would you say to encourage the younger generation to a career as a technician?
On a day to day level, a career as a technician can be stimulating and will contribute to a knowledge-based UK economy in the future like never before. The contribution of a technician will be indispensable for the UK positioning itself as a global leader in fields like biomedical sciences, including stem cells and organ regeneration, tackling cancer and infectious disease burden, climate science and biodiversity and lastly AI.
And lastly, what is the best piece of advice you received in your career?
Never turn down an opportunity – voluntary as well as paid – and try to build up professional networks at every available turn. This can and often does have unforeseen benefits. In addition, I would say that you should take your time to plan and execute your technical tasks carefully and methodically and think about why you perform tasks in the way that you do. This careful, insightful, pragmatic approach to your practical bench duties will culminate in a high success rate and good quality data. Incidentally, these “golden rules” are addressed as part of Professional registration competencies (viz. “B”, “D” and “E” in particular)