Case study

Lab technician — Angharad

Six months after completing a molecular biology degree at Cardiff University, Angharad now works as a lab technician for a leading environmental allergen detection systems company

How did you get your job?

I applied to work at Indoor Biotechnologies on a job website, and was successful because I could demonstrate the lab experience and had the right personality necessary to work effectively in a small team of six. We test for allergens in environmental samples for either routine work or work that will contribute to a clinical trial.

What's a typical working day like?

I'm usually testing for allergens from environmental samples - usually a dust extraction for a commercial client or a company running a clinical trial. My working day usually starts at 9.30am and finishes at 5.30pm.

A typical morning could be spent analysing yesterday's results and sending the report to the client. I might work on routine tests and run incubations over lunch. A typical afternoon could be working on the next phase of the experiment or prepping the next experiment by making buffers or creating enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and multiplex array for indoor allergens (MARIA) plates for allergen tests. When the plates are finished, I'll spend the rest of the day analysing the results.

What do you enjoy most about your job? What are the challenges?

I enjoy that the work is practical and every day is different. However, it's challenging to find a solution to an unfamiliar test. I often explore options with the senior scientist and we'll use a trial and error approach to achieve results, which is rewarding to see positive results from.

In what way is your degree relevant?

The broader modules from my BSc Molecular Biology degree gave me background knowledge of the current techniques I use today, such as how ELISA and protein work. My dissertation project, along with my professional training year at the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine (LIMM) - now the Leeds Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences - provided me with the essential lab skills required for the job. The project honed my ability work with a high level of accuracy while performing repetitive tasks.

How has your role developed? What are your career ambitions?

Initially, my work was observed by team members and it took six to seven weeks to pass the three ELISA and MARIA plate assessments, dust extraction, pipetting and other lab techniques. I can now work very independently. I don’t have any long-term plans but am looking to increase my responsibilities within the company.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into lab technician roles?

I would say to network. Opportunities can come by word of mouth so try and meet as many people as you can - you never know when someone may come in handy. I wish I networked more while I was studying. As well as networking, you should try to find as much work experience as you can. If it's lab work you're interested in, I would recommend trying to get on a year placement scheme.

Don’t be disheartened if you can’t find employment immediately after graduation - it can be difficult to find. Persistence is key.

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