PSS Distinguished Achievement Awards 2017 – Nicola Begley

**update: Nicola went on to win the individual Distinguished Award at the whole-University level.**

Faculties and all individual members of staff are invited annually to nominate colleagues for a Professional Support Services, Library and Cultural Institutions’ Distinguished Achievement Award.

The 2017 Winner is Nicola Begley, FBMH (Pictured below being presented the award by Professor Ian Greer. Congratulations!

Here is an excerpt from Professor Andrew Loudon’s interview on his winning nominee.

What made you nominate Nicola?

Nicola is a natural born leader. She works in a large busy environment with many conflicting pressures on her time, and carries considerable responsibility, in terms of financial and legal and regulatory. The presence of an experienced efficient support-staff leader is a necessary common feature in all large successful laboratories world-wide. Put simply, laboratories such as ours cannot operate without such support. Post-graduate and post-doctoral staff are of necessity short-term employees, so experienced support staff are the essential long-term glue that holds the team together.

Why do you think it is appropriate to have these awards?

Yes, it is very important. The support staff in the faculty are often the un-sung heroes of our science, and are critical to our operation across the board. We are very fortunate to have such a well-run operation at Manchester, from the core facilities to individual laboratories.

Here are a few words from Nicola.

Could you provide a very brief history of your career here at Manchester ?

I started working at the University in 2011 as a Research Technician for Dr. Julie Gibbs in Prof. Andrew Loudon’s lab.  I have remained in the Loudon lab where my role has developed to not only provide technical support but to also provide transgenic research programme management for multiple labs across the FBMH.

What does the achievement award mean to you?

I feel extremely grateful to have received the award.  I am very lucky to work with such supportive PI’s and colleagues and the nomination alone reinforced this support.  Winning the award reiterated how I feel day to day which is greatly appreciated for the work that I do.

What would you say is your greatest achievement since starting at the University & what are your plans for the future?

My greatest achievement was in being a middle author on an article in Nature medicine. This represented the culmination of 4 years work on a research programme into circadian control of inflammation which I was heavily involved in and supported the over research effort. To me this shows the importance of my work and role in research. In the future I hope to develop in my career, particularly in a research management role.


Runners up include:  Neil O’Hara (research technician) and Anthony Steel  (technical manager) FBMH. Well done!  Read Neil’s interview here and Anthony’s here.


TEaM Workplace tours

TEaM workplace tours continue to be a hit.

In Early February over 50 Technical staff from across the university attended a BSF Facility tour. The tour highlighted the varied and diverse research that’s taking place and the staff gave some very interesting background and information into the research and the facility. The Technical staff who attended the tour got a full tour of the facility. Thanks to all the staff from the BSF for giving such an interesting and informative tour.

The Whitworth Art Gallery has recently undergone a £15 million development programme seeing it double in size and embrace Whitworth Park; with the inclusion of the landscape gallery, learning studio and the café in the trees. On the morning of 24rd March 2017, Dean Whiteside, Buildings and Operations Manager, gave the opportunity to TEaM members to have access to an ‘exclusive’ behind the scenes tour of this wonderful transformation. (Pictured)

On 23rd March 2017, members of TEaM had the opportunity to attend a behind the scenes tour of Manchester Museum. Individuals saw many archived items, such as: spears, knives and ceremonial clothing; they also got to find out about preservation and restoration, the importance of pest control in the museum collections, display mounting to the actual logistics involved in obtaining  artefacts for the museum, such as the massive Easter Island statue and the reinforced floor!


TEaM at FBMH Technical Skills Day

TEaM attended the FBMH Technical Skills Day in AV Hill Building, on Thursday 30th March 2017.

The event concentrated on technical advice for immunohistochemistry methodologies.

Over one hundred delegates attended throughout the day event. 

The TEaM stand was there to promote the values of TEaM and recruit new members too!

Poonam Halai and Suzanna Dickson hosted the stand and new member Bushra Almari won the giant prize chocolate egg.

If you are interested in becoming a member of TEaM, please email, for further information.


May Newsletter Introduction

On behalf of the Steering Group, I would like to welcome you to the inaugural newsletter for Technical Excellence at Manchester (TEaM)!

TEaM is a cross-Faculty network, created by technical staff for technical staff, and is open to all staff members with a technical role.  It has been estimated that across the University, there are likely to be more than 600 members of staff with technical roles that cover a diverse range of skills, specialisms and job titles; based on the responses to the pre-TEaM launch questionnaire, which was completed by 298 people, over 55 different job titles were associated with technical roles.

 Since its launch in December 2016, 256 people have now subscribed to the TEaM email distribution list**, we have had 3 workplace tours, including the ‘Biological Services Facility’ (BSF), the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Manchester Museum, which have all been extremely popular and we have had the first of our networking/coffee morning events, which was attended by over 80 staff. To quote Michele Jennae*, “Networking is not about just connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities…. Networking means the act of exchanging information with people who can help you professionally.”   To this end, the newsletter will support the TEaM mission statement,

To raise the profile of technical staff, recognise their contribution to the University and empower them to develop their careers’ .

 TEaM will provide technical staff with the opportunity to learn about training and development opportunities on and off-campus, share experiences and knowledge and promote career pathways and career opportunities.

To fully achieve this, we need you to help shape the future of this exciting initiative. Maybe you are aware of an event or training opportunity that you would like to share, maybe you would like to share your career history &/or secondment experience and your future plans, or maybe you are a budding artist and would like to submit a ‘topical’ cartoon or illustration? We are looking for contributions to bring together technical staff from all areas of the University, to share our achievements and celebrate our vital contribution to teaching and research within our University and beyond. For further editorial details, please see the TEaM blog ( .

Just one final thought…….

“If you want 1 year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people.“ Chinese Proverb

 Rae Watkins (Chair)

* Artuitive & Career coach, Communications & Connection Strategist


TEaM Launch Event 12th December 2016

TEaM Networking Event 31st January 2017

Second quarterly coffee, tea & networking event

The next coffee, tea & networking event will be held in the Common Room of the Arthur Lewis Building from 10.30am to 11.30am on Wednesday, May 17th, 2017. The session will not only provide the opportunity for networking with technical colleagues from across the University, but also the first opportunity to sign-up for workplace tours in the following quarter and hear about future tour ideas, as well as other non-TEaM events.

Please visit this Eventbrite link to register to attend.

Academic Perspective – Professor Richard Grencis

Professor Richard Grencis FRSB,
Professor of Immunology
Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

My research relies heavily on the use of animals and I have worked with the technical staff in the University’s animal facility (BSF) for over 25 years.

The many challenges of working with animals, changing legislation relating to animal work and the progress in biology, genetics and new technologies place varied and often unique demands on the technical staff in the BSF. Despite these, in my experience, one of the key attributes of the technical staff evident in the BSF in Manchester is the “can do” attitude. This is exemplified by one recent development within the BSF, the establishment of the Manchester Gnotobiotic Facility.  This is a facility, which requires the provision of animals (mice) completely free from bacteria.  It is becoming increasingly apparent that our overall health is influenced considerably by our intestinal microflora, i.e. the bacteria that live in the intestine. The ability to be able to study this in a detailed manner requires studies in “germ free” animals. To establish this within a busy multiuser unit such as ours is an enormous challenge, but the attitude was always that it would be possible, whatever was required.

The support and effort that the technical staff put into this venture was exemplary, requiring imaginative solutions to the many challenges it presented. The success of this facility enabled us to establish one of the first such units in an academic institution in the UK, and has already been used by other leading UK University research groups. Moreover, establishing this capability in Manchester enabled external funding to be applied for and obtained to increase our capabilities in this area of research going forward.

The critical importance of dedicated technical staff to this venture cannot be underestimated; it would not have been possible without them. It is one of many examples where the enthusiasm and the unique expertise of our technical staff has really made a difference to our research and their value cannot be underestimated.

Teaching lab celebrates International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8th every year.  This year’s theme was Be Bold For Change, and highlighted the shocking statistic that, at current rates of change, the gender gap won’t close until 2168 (according to the World Economic Forum).  Female staff in the FBMH Teaching Labs posed for this photo to show their support for the campaign, but male staff benefit too from reducing the gender gap, particularly where family benefits such as parenting leave are concerned.  Thanks to Hayley Monk for this photo.

January networking event

At the end of January we hosted a coffee and networking event in the foyer of the Schuster building.  As well as tea, coffee and delicious cakes (what diet?), TEaM members had the opportunity to sign up for a professional registration workshop with the Science Council and a selection of tours of: the Animal Unit, the Manchester Museum and the Whitworth Art Gallery.  As a thank-you for coming to the event, those who signed up had the first opportunity to book a place: any places left after that were advertised to the whole TEaM email list.  Both the tours and the event proved really popular (80 people came to the event, and places on the workshop and tours went very quickly).  We’re planning on holding the networking events every 3 months, and have new tours to offer at these, as well as a newsletter.


Thanks so much to everyone who came and we hope to have much more to offer you over the coming weeks and months, watch out for updates!

Science Council Professional Registration Workshop

On Monday 20th February the Science Council was on campus to give a workshop to 17 technical staff about professional registration – how to apply, and what level (R. Sci. Tech, R. Sci or C. Sci) to apply for.

The workshop covered all the main competencies for professional registration which include: – Application of knowledge and understanding, Personal Responsibility, Interpersonal Skills, professional practice and professionalism. The workshop explored each competency and examples where given for the competencies giving staff detailed guidance on how to complete the application form in a timely and concise manner.

Feedback from the day was good; staff said that it was very useful and definitely helped with their applications.  TEaM will definitely be gauging interest for another one at the next coffee & networking event.