Technicians Rule When It Comes To School – Introducing the Technician Work Experience Programme

By 30th October 2019 Blog, News
Technicians Rule When It Comes To School
Laura Wilson, a Research Technician at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research at Newcastle University tells us about their brand new Technician Work Experience Programme.

In the past work experience opportunities have been ad hock, very disjointed and a bit boring!

It relied on one person organising things for the students to do for the whole week which could be a very onerous task. Hopefully those days are gone with the introduction of the Technician Work Experience Programme. This has been developed by Research Technicians at the Northern Institute of Cancer Research.

The programme aims to be fun and interesting, giving the student a broader, more hands on experience of what it is really like working in a research lab. It is more organised and easily available, with collaborations that have been set up with Newcastle College and Connections. This will increase the opportunities to be able to outreach to a broader range of students to take part in the programme.

We organise a timetable for the students to follow for the week, allowing flexibility for the technicians to pick dates and times that are available to teach a technique that they are experts in. This is to try to reduce the strain that this could put on the already busy research technician.

Each student is provided with a work booklet at the start of the week which details the various techniques they will be doing and gives them questions to complete, this is to test their understanding of what they are learning. When completed it provides them with a useful tool for their future studies. At the end of the week the students are presented with a certificate to mark their achievements.

As a team of technicians we are able showcase a broad range of techniques; Pipetting, Western blotting, Cell culture, Histology, Clonogenics, Flow cytometry, qPCR, FISH. We also cover Health & Safety and try to showcase the need for infrastructure support, with a behind the scenes tour of the building.

The skills that we teach will be used in most research labs so this will set them in good stead for a future career in science whilst also promoting a research technician as a possible career path. We do try to make the week as practical as possible as we feel this is the best way to learn and retain the information being taught, however some of the practical’s are limited due to the hazards that are being used.

We want to make the programme the best it can be so we ask for feedback at the end of the placement. Based on this we have added an end of week quiz, putting some of the skills they have learnt in to practise with some applied questions. We have also added a section about Summer Schools and applying for University, giving the students an insight of what studying at Newcastle University would be like and what courses we have on offer.

Some of the feedback we have had from the students are “All the staff really involved us and let me do a lot of the practicals individually.” “I found talking to the technicians about their experiences useful” “I enjoyed the practical sessions they were very engaging and lots of fun” “Thank you for a really enjoyable and interesting week, you have definitely made me want to consider a career in research, hopefully you will see me here in a few years.

If you’d like to know more about this work experience programme, you can contact Laura at laura.wilson5@newcastle.ac.uk.