Woohoo!!! The two weeks were manic but great fun! Thanks to all who voted :)
Favourite Thing: To use my knowledge, training and practical experience to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
Glasgow Caledonian University (2006 – 2010), Moray College (2004 – 2006), Inverness College (2001 – 2003)
BSc (Hons) Applied Biomedical Science, HND Admin & IT Management
NHS Lothian: Reproductive Medicine (Biomedical Scientist), NHS Lothian: Bacteriology (Advanced Biomedical Support Worker), Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (Research Assistant), Alere Technologies (Quality Control Technician), NHS Glasgow Labs (Trainee Biomedical Sciencist), NHS Highland Lyme Disease Reference Lab (Medical Lab Assistant), NHS Highland Bacteriology (Medical Lab Assistant), NHS Highland Biochemistry (Medical Lab Assistant)
Senior Biomedical Scientist / Lab Manager
NHS Lothian: Reproductive Medicine Laboratory
Me and my work
I work in a lab looking at sperm samples, freeze sperm for future fertility treatment (eg. IVF) and have developed the new NHS sperm bank in Edinburgh.
I work in quite a unique area for a Biomedical Scientist (BMS). Most BMS jobs are in labs which are completely separate from patient areas. We are often forgotten about – this is something the majority BMSs like as we are more the “behind the scenes” people rather than the main cast of the show. We have been described as the “SAS/ninjas of the NHS”. However, the department I work in involves lab work, office work and working directly with patients which I absolutely love.
I work really closely with other biomedical scientists, embryologists, doctors, nurses, support workers and admin staff to help couples fulfil their dream of having a baby of their own when they need a little help if things don’t happen naturally. We also work with patients who are about to start chemotherapy, radiotherapy, drug treatment or have surgery which could compromise their fertility.
Having worked in quite a variety of labs including other diagnostic labs (Microbiology, Haematology, Biochemistry), commercial labs and in research I have found this job the most rewarding.
My Typical Day
So varied – diagnostic service, freezing sperm (cryopreservation), meeting sperm donors and patients, getting scrubbed up for theatre, office work, reading, writing documents.
Diagnostic Service for Male Fertility (Andrology)
Tuesday to Friday 8:30am to 9:30am – Men (or their partner/wife) hand in their sperm sample so we can analyse it. We look at motility (how many of the sperm are swimming and if they are swimming nicely), concentration (the sperm count) and the morphology (the shapes of the sperm).
I meet with patients who need to freeze sperm before they start chemotherapy, radiotherapy, drug treatment or before they have an operation which could affect their fertility.
Sperm Donor Service
I arrange and carry out initial interviews with men applying to be sperm donors and assess their suitability to become a registered sperm donor at our Centre.
Surgical Sperm Retrieval
Not one for the faint-hearted. I am currently in training so I’m shadowing a trained person at the moment and involves getting scrubbed up for the theatre. From there we work with a surgical team and as the surgeon takes samples and tissue from the patient, we check down the microscope for sperm. This is usually the patient’s last chance for having their own biological child so we REALLY want to find some sperm we can then take back to our lab and freeze.
Making appointments for patients and sperm donors, authorising results from the diagnostic service, ordering stuff (stationery is my favourite), writing reports and protocols, arranging servicing of equipment (not my most favourite part of the job), dealing with staff holidays, courses, absences and appraisals.
As a registered BMS, I’ve completed the IBMS Registration Portfolio (IBMS is the Institute of Biomedical Scientists) so now I’m trying to complete my Specialist Portfolio. I’ve also volunteered to update the very “dated” website for the department……I really enjoy stuff like this but the quality of website is in one work, blurgh!
What I'd do with the money
I would love to be able to create an amazing website so everyone can easily access the information they’re looking for, and I’d also like to put the money towards a scheme/event to raise awareness of testicular cancer.
Apparently our department used to have a very good website which was external to the NHS website but the funding was taken away and we were left with a really old fashioned “thing” (I can’t even bring myself to call it a website).
When I started the sperm donor service (Edinburgh Sperm Bank), we couldn’t get it on the NHS website so my boss kindly paid for a random cheap website. However, many websites don’t tell you about the limitations. For example, the Edinburgh Sperm Bank website isn’t compatible with mobile devices (Eh, hello! Most people access the internet on their phone or tablet, I know I do), there aren’t multiple pages.
Ideally, we would have a nice, fresh and modern website where information is easy to find. Things I take for granted on any decent website, such as online enquiry forms, would be amazing! Oh yes, the simple things!
In terms of raising awareness of testicular, it’s really important for guys to know what to look for. There is a charity in Glasgow where people go out and about to raise awareness but I don’t know of any in Edinburgh. I think when it comes to genitals, people can sometimes feel a bit more shy about getting things checked out but at the end of the day, they are a normal part of out human anatomy and they need to be healthy and looked after.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Friendly, science-y and champagne-y.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Ooft, I like so many – Bruno Mars, Olly Murs, Queen, Michael Buble – anything that gets my shoulders shoogling and hips jiggling.
What's your favourite food?
Crab claws, scallops, steak, jerk chicken.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Can’t pick but would include flying (and landing a plane), flying a helicopter, parachute jumps, bungee jump, climbing a waterfall in Jamaica, swimming in caves and zip lines in the dark, through fire in a Mexico rainforest, swimming with a dolphin and Hogwarts in Universal Orlando (can’t wait to go back there).
What did you want to be after you left school?
Musical Therapist or Occupational Therapist.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Only occasionally and only in my 6th year of secondary.
What was your favourite subject at school?
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Developed the Edinburgh Sperm Bank and had work published on a Hepatitis E project in a previous job.
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
I was working as a Personal Assistant in Medical Physics and worked closely with a few scientists, read up on what they did and wanted in on the action.
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
Graphic designer or wedding planner.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
(1) Win the lottery; (2) Do a wing-walk; (3) Take my family and friends on holiday to Jamaica.
Tell us a joke.
Teacher: “Anyone who thinks he’s stupid may stand up!” [Nobody stands up] “I’m sure there are some stupid students over here!!”……. [Little Johnny stands up] Teacher: “Oh, Johnny you think you’re stupid?”….. Little Johnny: “No… i just feel bad that you’re standing alone.”
My desk – a lot more tidy than usual! Like my toy sperm below the computer screen and pink crown on the shelf?
At the microscope.
Me and my workmate, Val, filling some storage dewars of sperm with liquid nitrogen.
This is the 1000 litre tank of liquid nitrgon where we can fill smaller tanks – not that small though at 180 litres….heavy!
Lab selfie! These are my colleagues Val, Sheona and Iain (and me on the far right).
Adam (on the other side of the door) is our newest member of staff. I haven’t locked him in the lab, I promise! We decorated the lab for Val coming back from her holidays…….why? Because that’s what we do, and there was a special reason too (see next pic)….
Val again. I nominated Val as Mentor of the Year 2015. She was shortlisted and at a Bafta-style awards ceremony she was announced as the winner!!!!! So chuffed for “Oor Val”. Our lab was certainly a focal point of the day.