Reyna Gutierrez Rivera’s 10 months/10 events challenge

The pieces of our life are made by our memories. If we lose them, what are we?

Alzheimer’s is a complex disease, barely understood and with increasing number of casualties. It does not only affects the subject, but the people surrounding it. As many of you, one of Reyna’s dearest has been touched and ultimately, lost the battle.

Reyna Gutierrez Rivera, a Research Technician at the Stoller Biomarker Discovery Centre started a 10 months/10 events challenge on her way to conquer her first trail marathon. She took this opportunity to raise money, awareness and help research to tackle the disease.

Incredibly since January 2017, she has ran 7 events: 10K, 9 miles, 10 miles and half-marathons. Also, she has organised a bake sale last June to raise funds for this challenge.

Her next event will be a trail weekend-training where she will run the marathon distance. So far she has raised £241.13


Please, help her to reach her goal and stay motivated by donating to her justgiving page:

If you have any questions or a good excuse to run around, drop Reyna an email at


Tropical Ecology and Conservation: Costa Rica

Debbie Ashworth was recently on secondment from FSE to FMBH for three weeks to work as a member of staff on a second year undergraduate field course within the School of Biology on tropical ecology and conservation based in Costa Rica. Her current role with the University is as a research technician.

The course involved visiting different areas and habitats in Costa Rica and experiencing  various methods of conservation and the diversity of life in the rain forest.

She directly supervised student projects researching tropical bat species and leaf cutter ants as well as aiding with other aspects of the course.


Highlights of this course are detailed in



Editorial: How has CPD given my career a new lease of life?

By Sandra Taylor RSci

I have worked in research support for many years now, starting my first lab role in a veterinary lab in 1987 and my first research assistant role in 1988 when I joined the team of the (now) Prof Coen FRS at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. It was the beginning of Molecular Genetics and an exciting time to be in research. We identified a key gene essential for flowering in plants, and then quite a few more, using transposon tagging.

In 1998 I moved back to my home city of Manchester and had a chance to learn more about Biochemistry. I worked for several groups with the theme of protein movement within cells until my daughter was born in 2000. I decided then to take some time away from science, returning to the bench in 2007.

More recently I moved to the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) to a very different kind of work, which has brought new challenges. I am currently supporting SYNBIOCHEM, one of six Synthetic Biology centres around the country and am part of a large team using new high throughput technology and computational DNA design to build new pathways for the production of fine and speciality chemicals. This has again brought new and enjoyable challenges and it’s really fun to work as part of a multi-disciplinary team.


Recognition of lifelong learning

My journey to being involved with the Science Council began when I went to a meeting about professional registration, run by my previous manager who is now registrar for the Institute of Science and Technology (IST). I loved the idea of being able to evidence the lifelong learning I have always embraced to stay on top of new developments and ideas.

I value this recognition for support staff who often develop their skills and experience on the job, but who previously didn’t have anything on paper to demonstrate this journey. Especially today where it’s likely that technical staff will change jobs during their careers, it’s great that this award can be taken with us, even between industry and academia.


Developing personal responsibility and interpersonal skills

I completed registration as a Registered Scientist (RSci) in 2013. One of my CPD goals was to organise the technicians’ seminar series for my faculty. This helped to develop my personal responsibility and interpersonal skills. I was given some initial guidance by the previous organiser and my technical manager, then built on contacts I already had to make plans for the programme themes, the timing of the seminars (inviting feedback on both), and recruited volunteers who helped put up posters in their work area and helped tidy up after each event.

To promote the seminars, I sought advice from a colleague and used posters, faculty emails, plasma screens and word of mouth. I booked the catering and the meeting room well in advance. Each week I made sure the speaker was still OK to present, and checked what form their presentation was in. Fitting this around the lab work was challenging but my supervisor was supportive.

In a nutshell, I would not be doing my current role, which I thoroughly enjoy, had I not embraced professional registration. I met my current co-Director through organising the seminars. It’s given my career a new lease of life.


Supporting colleagues with professional registration

As another CPD goal, I trained to become an assessor for the IST and plan to volunteer as an assessor for the Science Council in the near future. I have helped several registrants at the University of Manchester to complete their paperwork and have run two workshops on registration for the University. This helps promote professional standards both in my own work and the way I assess applicants, and also raises the standards of those who we are assessing as we offer feedback and advice on areas for their professional development.

Volunteering outside of work

As a third CPD goal, I have taken part in several outreach events; explaining science to the public and to school students, which has been fun, as was helping to organise March for Science Manchester. It’s surprisingly challenging to take the scientific knowledge and understanding that we have and explain it in a way that the public will understand.

For one year I organised their NW networking meetings. In my career I found the best way to learn something new is to ask for help from someone else who is already successfully doing it. Sharing best practice by professional networking is a great way to learn and develop professional practice.

And last year, I was asked by the IST and by the Science Council to become a Registrant Champion, and to share my story in a blog, so here it is.

I so often get asked “what’s the point of professional registration?” or “what’s in it for me?” or even “why should I have to pay for it?” I would say if you care about job satisfaction, having pride in your work, meeting with others to share experiences and expertise, then just maybe, you will find new opportunities and new horizons from being a registered professional scientist that you didn’t know were there. Just go for it!


This article was originally blogged on the Science Council website on 06/06/17.

How has CPD given my career a new lease of life?


Academic Perspective: Prof Tony Whetton

Director of Stoller Biomarker Discovery Centre and Manchester Precision Medicine Institute

New high end instrumentation is being employed to ensure patients receive the right treatment at the right time at the right dose. To ensure that the maximum opportunities are taken from such platforms a highly skilled workforce is required. At the University of Manchester we have developed just such a highly skilled technical team to enhance the development of precision medicine and companion biomarkers.

The Stoller Biomarker Discovery Centre was established to aid in the development of new diagnostic tools and protein biomarkers to assist in diagnosis or to judge whether a patient is or will show a response to drugs.  It is co-located  with the Manchester Molecular Pathology Innovation Centre (MMPathIC)  in a £3 million purpose built laboratory. The Stoller Centre was developed   with a £13 million Medical Research Council grant and now has funding of about £25 million (inclusive of a £6 million equipment base) with MMPathIC.  MMPathIC takes forward findings from the Stoller Centre, partnering companies and other research laboratories to develop tests and devices that can be used in the NHS and elsewhere to take clinical decisions. The funding acquired has been awarded for a platform and a concept that absolutely relies on the highly skilled technical staff we have employed to deliver data and information via the use of highly complex molecular weighing machines known as mass spectrometers plus other complex pieces of equipment. In mass spectrometry precision, accuracy and reproducibility are everything. Maintaining all these criteria needs to take place within a strictly controlled laboratory environment where every sample has to be tracked and every manipulation performed on a sample needs to be recorded.  Then, all raw data has to be stored and archived and also processed into information, a huge task given the amount of data we produce. This means our colleagues had to develop and build a complex informatics structure from scratch.

In the Stoller Biomarker Discovery Centre we began with a shelled out piece of laboratory space and built the laboratory from nothing. We appointed excellent technical staff who helped to develop the project from the ground up taking into account sample tracking and all other features mentioned above. We have made a globally unique centre based on their team work, willingness and hard work. For example, in one strand of its activity the Stoller Centre has industrialised the process of finding and quantifying proteins in blood, synovial fluid or cells. With the help of our technical staff we developed the standard operating procedures to perform these assays in a fashion that would be acceptable under good clinical practice guidelines.  This involved standard procedures to “cut” proteins with enzymes, chemically reduce them and alkylate them. We often need to extract proteins at very high pressure and approaches to do that also had to be developed to best practice standards, again protocols had to be developed to do this.

Now we sit on a huge opportunity to improve healthcare thanks to the work of our staff in the Stoller Centre in the past and the future. We have projects in arthritis, leukaemia, ovarian cancer, psoriasis, lupus erythematosus, schizophrenia, dementia, heart failure and others. We are making and we will make a different thanks to our integrated and excellent technical support team.


Academic Perspective: Prof Andrew Horn

Technical Excellence Supporting Teaching

Director of Teaching and Learning, School of Chemistry

The role of The University of Manchester’s world-class infrastructure and technical staff in the generation of internationally competitive research outputs and knowledge transfer is well documented, and is an important draw for academic researchers and businesses to the University from around the world. Perhaps less well documented, but equally important in pursuit of the University’s strategic vision and in attracting excellent students to study at Manchester, is the role of technical staff in teaching and learning – this is especially true in the School of Chemistry.

Being able to ‘do’ practical chemistry is as important as subject knowledge for many of our graduates in their future careers, and it is also an integral part of learning how to be a well-rounded chemist. An effective, professional partnership between technical and academic staff is crucial for around 700 students per year to gain hands-on experience of advanced, modern practical chemistry.

The technical demands of laboratory teaching programmes are wide-ranging: in any given week during the semester in the teaching labs, our technical staff engage in setting up an array of sophisticated experiments, rapid scene-shifting between different classes (a highly complex manoeuvre with very little margin for error), maintenance, calibration and operation of sophisticated analytical equipment, ‘on-the-fly’ problem solving, procurement, scheduling and implementation of laboratory safety to name but a few things. To deal with this level of student throughput whilst maintaining a world-class student experience requires not only skill but dedication and attention to detail.

Many of School’s technical specialists also engage in ‘face-to-face’ activities with students, for example guiding them through the operation of state-of-the-art instrumentation used in advanced practicals and research projects. A number of technical staff are also heavily involved in the design of practical teaching, both in the process of turning academic ideas into workable, in-lab experiments and in the specification, commissioning and operation of advanced instrumentation. And of course ‘stuff breaks’ in the real world: we rely heavily on the expertise, and often the ingenuity, of a wide range of technical specialists including IT experts, electronic and mechanical engineers and, of course, glassblowers (well it is chemistry after all) to keep our teaching apparatus and instrumentation in excellent shape.

The importance of our technical colleagues’ skill and dedication to the teaching  programmes, undergraduate research projects, and thus the student experience, cannot be overstated.


Technical Staff Profile: Peter Leigh

Multimedia Technician

Geography, School of Environment, Education and Development

Describe your work area and its importance.

Multimedia Technician working in SEED, based in Ellen Wilkinson Building 4 days and 1 day Humanities Bridgeford Street. There are around 30 teaching spaces with a variety of AV equipment installed. I spend quite a bit of time looking after these rooms, making sure everything is working as it should be.

On a typical day, what do you spend most of your time on?

The job is quite varied, there’s lots of portable AV equipment, which needs to be managed, loaned out etc. I could be out at a school videoing a PGCE trainee or a teacher, or videoing at a conference or in the office video editing. I also take quite a few photographs for use on our web pages.

Describe your career path to date, including highs and lows.

I started out as an apprentice commercial vehicle body builder for a company, which has long since gone, called Manchester Garages. After completing my apprenticeship I returned to college full time for 2 years to study AV design. I then went on to work at the Manchester College as an AV technician, I stayed there in the art department for 21 years before joining the university in 2006.

What drives you?

I know I drive a Rover 75, but I’ve never been quite sure what’s driving me!

Tell us a funny story, work-related or not:

There is one involving my wife and a telephone kiosk in Cornwall and that’s all I’ll say, just in case she sees this.

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

Now let me think……………………..



Technical Staff Profile: Brian Landamore

Senior Theatre Technician, BSF

Describe your work are and its importance

I work in the theatre suite where we look after the needs of the many and varied groups of research workers. We give them the facilities to be able to do their research in the best conditions that we can.

On a typical day, what do you spend most of your time on?

This varies from day to day depending on how many people are in the theatres. A lot of time is taken up with the usual paper work, ordering supplies and doing accounts, but also we do the general maintenance of the theatres and equipment as well as giving technical assistance as a when needed.

Describe your career path to date.

I started as a junior technician in 1972 in what was then the Department of Bacteriology and Virology in the Williamson building. When the unit opened in the Stopford building we moved over there which was about 1973-4. In 1979 I went as a technician to the Department of Zoology back in the Williamson building and stayed there until 1989 when the department was swallowed up in one of the many reorganisations that seem to plague the University. I came back to the unit in the Stopford building as a theatre technician and took over when the previous senior tech retired. I have another 2-3 years to go and then I can put my feet up!

What’s your proudest accomplishment at work

There is probably no one thing as such, but I am proud and get a sense of achievement when we get problems sorted out for people be they big or small and they can get on and get their business done.

What was your lowest moment?

Probably when the Department of Zoology was absorbed. I worked at the time with a great group of people which I enjoyed very much who sadly got scattered to the four winds and I lost contact with most of them. Happily I have worked with an equally great bunch of people in the BSF.

What drives you?

Working with a great variety of people who rely on the staff of the BSF (not just me) to be able to do their research work and get the best results that they can. To be able to see that come to fruition is something it is truly worthwhile.

Tell us a funny story, work-related or not

When I started in 1972 I was told that would be on 3 months probation and I would have a meeting at the end of that time to learn my fate. That meeting never happened, no letter arrived ( no emails in those days) so I am still waiting to see if they want me to stay or not. They had better hurry up before I retire!



Technical Staff Profile: Marie Emerson

Instrumentation & Control Engineer

School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science, Faculty of Science & Engineering 

Describe your work area and its importance.

I design, implement and maintain systems for data acquisition and process automation, for teaching and research experiments. I use software such as Labview and our Siemens PCS7 distributed control system (DCS), plus hardware such as sensors and pumps. My work is important because Chemical Engineers need data to understand how a process works, and they need to control it to achieve the desired results.

On a typical day, what do you spend most of your time on?

I have a steady stream of requests from researchers who need support in developing their experiment, so I will spend some time consulting with them and some time working alone on my contribution. I am continually developing our DCS, so take the opportunity to work on that when it is not is use. Most days there will also be some sort of ad hoc troubleshooting that I need to attend to, which could end up being the task that I spend most of my time on that day.

Describe your career path to date, including highs and lows.

I graduated from Leeds University in 2003 with a Mechatronics MEng degree, keen to work in robotics. My first permanent job was testing robotic high throughput assay platforms for pharmaceutical R&D. Configuring and testing the hardware was great fun, but I found testing the software quite dull at times. I wanted to be more involved in the development of automated systems, and fancied working for a large company with global presence. Siemens was an ideal fit, so I joined in 2006. Initially I worked as a project engineer, designing large motor and drive systems for clients such as power stations and steel plants. The international travel was great, although it was often at short notice. I achieved Chartered status in 2011, an achievement I remain very proud of. I then side-stepped into a design engineer role in another part of Siemens to learn more about distributed control, working with clients in different industries such as food, chemical and pharmaceutical production. It was fun visiting the manufacturing facilities, especially Hartley’s Jam and BMW Mini. Alongside my engineering work I enjoyed supporting entry level talent as a placement manager and mentor. As coordinator of the undergraduate sponsorship scheme I worked with managers across the business and with Universities, to help our undergraduates develop the skills they need to become professional engineers. I decided I wanted to work in a University and took this post at the end of 2014. In the future I would like to facilitate collaborations between industry and academia, to address the engineering skills gap or to aid development of innovative technologies.

What drives you?

Making things work. I like bringing together technology and people to find solutions to engineering problems. It’s a brilliant feeling when you solve a problem that you’ve never encountered before, and even better to share that feeling with others.

Tell us a funny story, work-related or not:

I used to have an inspirational mentor who worked at BAE Systems in Warton, and I would visit her there for meetings. On my first visit the security guard – quite deliberately – made a ‘hilarious’ comment whilst taking the photo for my ID badge. I of course indulged him with a hearty laugh, head thrown back for good measure. He insisted that the system only allowed him to take one photo, and proceeded to print what looked like a security pass for a braying donkey. He loved printing it out every time I came to visit; I loved wearing it a little less.

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

Progressing your career isn’t necessarily about what you know, or even who you know, it’s often about who knows you. Take every opportunity to let people know who you are, what you do, what your strengths are. Getting involved with the TE@M network is a great way to do this, it enables technical staff to meet new people across the university and to increase their own visibility – for example writing a profile for this newsletter is a brilliant opportunity which any member can take advantage of.