Supporting the Scientists: Working as a research technician in a Core Services facility


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Shairbanu Ashra graduated from the University of Leicester in 2004 with a degree in Medical Biochemistry, and completed an MSc in Pathology and Toxicology the following year. Since 2005 she has worked in the Proteomics division of the Protein and Nucleic Acid Chemistry Laboratory (PNACL), a support service for scientists at the University.

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Supporting the Scientists: Working as a research technician in a Core Services facility

  1. 1. ‘Supporting the Scientists’ College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology Working as a Research Technician in a Core Biotechnology Services (CBS) Core Service Facility Shairbanu Y Ashra
  2. 2. About Me • 2004: BSc Medical Biochemistry (University of Leicester) • 2005: MSc Pathology and Toxicology with a Research placement at AstraZeneca (University of Leicester) • 2004 – 2005: Biomedical Assistant in the Pathology Laboratory (University Hospitals of Leicester) • 2005: Research Technician in Proteomics (University of Leicester)
  3. 3. Protein & Nucleic Acid CL Chemistry Laboratory A PN • Located in the Hodgkin Building (Lab 204) • Work in PNACL (The Protein Nucleic Acid Chemistry Laboratory ); which is core research facility – PNACL is part of the Centre for Core Biotechnology Services (CBS) @ the university – Variety of different Core technical service facilities dedicated to supporting research across the College these include; • – – – – Bioinformatics and Biostatistics (BBASH); Biomedical Joint Workshop; Containment Level 3 Facility; Protein Expression (PROTEX); NUCLEUS Genomics; ES Cell Facility We provide DNA sequencing and Proteomics services Specialized techniques and use highly specialized Mass Spectrometers Work is submitted to us; we analyse the samples and return the data Provide different levels of service for both DNA sequencing and proteomics
  4. 4. What do I do as a Research Technician? • • • • Have been in this position since Aug 2005 When I first started it was a 3 year contract Most technical positions are short term; usually between 1- 3 years If there is a need for the post and Funding is available then it may be extended • PNACL is a self funding lab; No work = No money !! • Working in a core facility is different than working as a technician in a research lab; – – – – – Work dependant on other people i.e. the customers You can’t plan your work in advance I don’t have a specific project that I work on Work gets very repetitive You have a larger base of users to support – Post-docs/scientists, Postgraduates, Undergraduates, external users (Not just a project supervisor!)
  5. 5. About my Job – Day to Day What do I do as a Research Technician? • Preparing samples for protein identification or for accurate mass determination of whole proteins • Liaising with post-graduate students, researchers and staff • Provide advice and training on the MALDI-Tof to the users of the facility • Lab maintenance and management – – – – – Ordering Maintaining specialised laboratory equipment Filing accounts to send the accountant Updated the COSHH forms for the proteomics service Contact technical support when equipment breaks down • Liaising with reps – Find out about latest products – Check costing of products and secure discounts
  6. 6. What is Proteomics? ‘The Identification AND Quantification of the full protein complement expressed by the genome of an organism at a particular point in time.’ Identification – what proteins are present? Quantification – how much of each protein is present? Which proteins interact with each other, and how?
  7. 7. Peptide Mass Fingerprinting - overview Experimental Protein Proteolytic Peptides [ Ab s . In t. *1 0 ^ 3 ] 1 .8 1 .6 Protein Identification 1 .4 1 .2 1 .0 0 .8 0 .6 0 .4 0 .2 0 .0 1000 1500 Mass List 2000 2500 m /z 3000 3500 4000 Database search
  8. 8. In-gel Tryptic Digestion Trypsin cleaves after Lysine (K) and Arginine (R) except when next residue is Proline (P) Excise Spot from Gel Wash in NH4HCO3 to remove stain Shrink in ACN Swell up in DTT To reduce disulfide Bonds Shrink in ACN 10mM Peptides diffuse out of gel Swell up in Trypsin Buffered to pH 8.5 Using 50mM NH4HCO3 Shrink in ACN Swell up in Iodoacetamide Reacts with -SH groups stopping disulfides reforming 100mM Acidify to inactivate trypsin Mass Spectrometry
  9. 9. PNACL Equipment Multiprobe II Liquid Handling Robot Voyager DE-STR MALDI-ToF mass spectrometer • No need for repetitive pipetting • Peptide mass fingerprinting can be automated • Automation reduces likelihood of keratin contamination • High throughput – up to 1 sample per minute
  10. 10. Pros and Cons Cons • Starting salary depends on grade and experience; average from about £15,303 - £29,541 (pushing in to management) • Temporary contracts, between 1-3 years, job stability an issue • • • • Pros Don’t have the pressure and demands of grant writing etc. Meet a lot of people, and can be involved in many different projects Work has been acknowledged in several research publications Attend conferences; keep up to date with research and technologies
  11. 11. Career Progression • No set progression route • Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Framework for Technicians • The university is register with an organisation called HEaTED; Higher Education & Technician education & development • These are all ways of acquiring transferable skill that you would be able to use when searching for a new job
  12. 12. Advice • • • • Work experience – get as much experience in a lab based environment Check on University websites for jobs Search engines and Recruitment agencies Talk to people that are working in the field that you are interested in – Supervisors – Post-docs – Lab technician • Volunteer • Enjoy working with people and science!
  13. 13. Thank you for listening. Any Questions?