Introducing the LMS’s first Sustainability Officer

Making biomedical research sustainable – Introducing the LMS’s first Sustainability Officer

 28 April 2023   Institute News

By Sofia Velazquez Pimentel

The MRC London Institute of Medical Science (LMS) welcomes its first Sustainability Officer, Nicola Rodricks, as it aims to pioneer environmental practice in biomedical research. Nicola’s appointment marks the LMS’s key ambitions to achieve the prestigious sustainability Gold LEAF award by the end of this year and meet UKRI environmental goals by 2040. 

Biomedical research has been at the forefront of some of the most remarkable achievements of mankind, drastically increasing life expectancy and quality of life. However, it is often overlooked as a major player in climate change. With biomedical research generating a staggering 5.5 million tons of plastic waste each year and draining up to ten times the energy of commercial counterparts, there is an ever-increasing urgency to make drastic changes in biomedical research practices. 

Considering the contributions of biomedical research to the climate crisis, the LMS introduces their first sustainability officer, Nicola Rodricks. Nicola is a sustainability expert and aims to utilise her vast experience and expertise to reduce and replace non-environmentally friendly processes in the lab. Nicola will work closely with colleagues from both the LMS and the UKRI Medical Research Council to ensure these positive changes are made whilst not jeopardising the delicate processes needed for premium quality research. 

Nicola explained her key goals as the LMS Sustainability Officer: Research laboratories are unique spaces that require sustainable solutions that work for that space, their scientists and their research. Bearing that in mind we need to find a way to reduce and replace energy inefficient processes while optimising research workflow. My work will initially focus on the initiatives supported by the Greening LMS team, looking at optimizing equipment usage, recyclable plastic initiatives and reusing or repurposing glass alternatives.” 

Nicola’s desire to work in sustainability came early on in her life. “Growing up in Aotearoa /New Zealand, a predominantly coastal region of the world with an abundance of green hills and natural reserves, I always felt a responsibility to take as much care of the land as I could” she said. 

Before Nicola’s arrival, the LMS Greening Committee had already implemented a range of changes and in 2019 won the Silver LEAF award in recognition of their sustainability work. The Silver LEAF award is a difficult award to achieve, but Nicola and the team are motivated to take the LMS to Gold by the end of 2023. 

A key ambition for Nicola and the LMS is to inspire other biomedical institutions, showing that it is possible to make research practices for biomedical researchers more sustainable, making biomedical research about both healthy people and a healthy planet. 

“It may seem slightly inconvenient at first to change the way we work, but ultimately, creating new habits is not impossible. Starting first at your own lab bench can lead to inspiring your nearby colleagues and labs” Nicola said. 

With Nicola’s appointment, we are optimistic about our institute’s ability to pioneer positive environmental practice in biomedical research. In an era of change at the LMS – a new director, contemporary building, and fresh research strategy – introducing our first sustainability role marks a positive move towards making a biomedical research vision that realises that healthy people need a healthy planet.  

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