Technicians keeping us at the forefront of innovation

The Inaugural Inter-MRC Institute Technician Symposium

 5 July 2019   Institute News

It has been over a year since the Medical Research Council (MRC) signed the Technician Commitment pledging to ensure and support the visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability of the technical workforce across MRC institutes. On Tuesday 2 July, our technicians were invited to the first ever Inter-MRC Institute Technician Symposium with a view of promoting networking opportunities and celebrating their contributions to the research we do.

The keynote was delivered by Professor Sir William Wakeham, who highlighted the importance of events such as these in creating a sense of community across the technical workforce. Wakeham stressed how we must recognise that technicians are the backbone of the scientific workforce and are vital to ensuring that the UK is at the forefront of innovation. Therefore, as the MRC, our institutes must provide the mechanisms for technicians to thrive in their roles. The Technician Commitment aims to go beyond awards of recognition, striving to create practical frameworks for professional registration, networking and career progression. These frameworks were explored through presentations and networking workshops during the symposium.

Volunteers, cheered on by their departments, presented to their colleagues throughout the morning in a series of nine short presentations delivered by; Ivan Andrew, MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (LMS); Sara Taylor and Clare Norris (MRC Harwell); Alison Lane, Michael Fenton, Nadua Bayzid and Shahana Ahmed from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB); Emma Rush and Heather Meek (MRC Harwell); Marian Dore (LMS); Sarah Malsen (LMB); Amie Brett (MRC Harwell); Alex Montoya (LMS) and Matt McKenzie (MRC Harwell). The presentations sought to celebrate the technical work that keeps the MRC running and demonstrate the diversity of roles and responsibilities of our technicians.

Not only are our technicians versed in their practices as genotypers, phenotypers and bioinformaticians, they also hold important roles as educators, training both staff and students in technical procedures. Beyond shedding light on their contributions to our research, the presentations covered advice on career development within the technical field. Alex Montoya (LMS) shared his experience of balancing further studies alongside full-time work, providing highly relevant and valuable knowledge to the attending technicians considering a similar career pathway. An informative talk from Emma Rush and Heather Meek (MRC Harwell) on mouse embryo transfer demonstrated how their innovation had improved routine procedures to be more efficient, sterile and successful. The knowledge of our technicians is invaluable, and creating opportunities such as this symposium for collaboration across departments can only benefit the advancement of our research.

The afternoon’s activities were focused around networking and developing skills for creating long-term connections. Our technicians were thrown straight into it, in a speed networking session that got technicians from different departments talking. Tasmin Napier-Munn, the Women in Business Manager at The Business Magazine delivered two workshops, with the ambition of developing our technicians’ networking toolkit to implement in future symposiums so that they can excel in their collaborations and career advancements.

Connecting like-minded people facilitated discussions of the challenges that technicians face and encouraged consideration of ways they could be overcome to improve life as a MRC technician. Hopefully the symposium has encouraged more of our technicians to get involved in the Technician Commitment to build a larger community and bring a stronger voice to the table. The responses from our technicians were overwhelmingly positive reporting on how the symposium “made [them] feel like they were part of a team” and helped them “to appreciate the bigger picture of what [they] do here” at the MRC.

The symposium was a great start to growing a positive culture and environment for the MRC’s technician community. This is sure to be the first of many future Inter-MRC Institute Technician Symposiums that will support the continued celebration and development of our technical workforce across our institutes here at the MRC.


Written by Roween Rawat