What is your role within MC²?
Up until the 30th of June I was the Head of MC², and now I am the Director of Research Infrastructure and Facilities for the whole of the University. Although I have moved a little further away from the operational coal face of MC², I am lucky that the Facility still falls within my remit, so I will retain links with the team and continue to be able to drive its developments and success.
How long have you worked here, and what did you do before this?
I joined the University of Bath in 2006 as the Mass Spectrometrist in the Department of Chemistry. After 6 years in that role, and a career break to have my son, I first became Head of the Chemical Characterisation and Analysis Facility (CCAF), which was subsequently merged with the Microscopy Analysis Suite (MAS) to form MC², for which I became the Head. Before coming to Bath, I worked as an Instrument Specialist for a mass spectrometry instrument manufacturer, Bruker, where I supported the sales team and client base across Europe (and bizarrely also New Zealand).
What happens in your typical workday? And what would you say is the best bit of your job?
There really is no typical day, and that is even more the case in this new role. I may be writing strategy documents, speaking to UKRI, writing funding proposals, being shown round a University Facility or fighting hard to get the Technical staff voice heard on the Research Culture working group. I may also be looking through finance spreadsheets or chasing a purchase through the University approvals system to ensure that the order goes out quickly. But ultimately, I am working on how we can make the Research Infrastructure the best it can be for the researchers at Bath and beyond, whether that is through operational details or developing the vision and strategy. The best bit? Working with brilliant colleagues who have a passion and drive for what they do, and together moving things forward to make improvements.
What is the worst part about your job?
As a people person I don’t like to see my colleagues disappointed. Whether that is because the piece of equipment they desperately need cannot be funded or we are not able to help a small start-up identify an impurity in their production line. This is why I try to ensure that our research infrastructure not only has the right equipment but also the right people running and supporting it – it is after all only with this complete ecosystem that we will be able to deliver. Oh, and having to spell ‘equipment’ about 100 times a day. I seem to have a mental block about it, and will spell it as ‘equipmnet’ more often than not (maybe it is something to do with the location of the keys on the keyboard….) – thank goodness for spell check.
Tell us about a recent proud moment you had at work - Why was this special?
I was super proud to be asked to chair the EPSRC Strategic Advisory Team (SAT) for Capital Equipment. I have been on this advisory board for 5 years now and felt like a real imposter when I started: I was the first Research Technical Professional (RTP) to sit on such a strategic team in EPSRC and I was constantly talking about the aspects of capital equipment management which the academics on the committee weren’t considering. I am now also the first (and only) RTP to chair a SAT, and have really raised the profile of RTPs across UKRI. To open my first meeting as Chair was a nerve wrecking, but very proud, moment.
Who inspired you as a child, and who inspires you now?
It may sound a little lame, but my parents have always inspired me, and continue to do so. They have always been a tight unit whilst proactively taking opportunities for new careers, locations and adventures. Because of that I had lived in six countries by the time I was 21 years old, with my parents going back to higher education to change career directions on several occasions during that time. They continue to show me that the world and life are a series of opportunities, to be embraced with open arms.
Do you have any hidden talents, and anything specific you still want to learn?
I am not sure that I have any hidden talents really, however I like to try my hand at lots of things which have piqued my interest at various points, in the hope that I will find the thing I can really immerse myself in and stick with. So far I have spent time focussing on knitting, mixing hand creams and shower gels, making canvas collages with paint, fabric and wool, wild swimming, singing in a choir, and bread baking. I’ve always wanted to learn to play the saxophone, but I am not sure that my neighbours would approve of that one! Maybe a photography course instead?
If you could choose anything at all, what would your Friday evening meal consist of? Would you cook it yourself?
We have an awesome little business in Frome called Burrito Boi, and they make the best chicken burrito, with pickles and guacamole. Just delicious. So my ideal Friday evening would consist of sitting at one of their five tables with family or friends, watching the hustle and bustle of the open kitchen, eating burritos and drinking one of their awesome frozen margaritas. My mouth is even watering at the thought of it!