2015 Higher Education Technicians’ Summit – recognising the talent of technicians

Posted by pt91 at Jul 03, 2015 11:50 AM |
Contribution of University of Leicester Imaging Technician celebrated

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 3 July 2015

Justyna Janus at the University of Leicester has received a Papin Prize in recognition of her contributions as a technician – sometimes described as the ‘unsung heroes’ of UK higher education.

The University of Leicester, in conjunction with fellow research intensive universities across the Midlands, celebrated the work of the technicians who underpin university life with the inaugural 2015 Higher Education Technicians’ Summit on Tuesday 30 June. The Summit was held in association with the research and innovation collaboration of the six leading Midlands universities and the Science Council.

Kelly Vere, Conference Chair, said: “The Summit is the first of its kind – celebrating the achievements, skills and expertise of university technical staff. We are thrilled to have attracted inspirational speakers and the support of a number of learned societies and organisations, all of whom are fully committed to the professional recognition of technicians in higher education and beyond."

Celebrating the talent of technicians

The skills, talent and experience of technicians were celebrated via the inaugural Papin Prizes, which were given to individual technicians across the Midlands region who have demonstrated excellence.

Winner of the Newcomer Prize, Justyna is an Imaging Technician at the University of Leicester’s Preclinical Imaging Facility. She said: “I was pleased to take part in the first Higher Education Technician Summit celebrating the achievements of technicians and even more delighted to receive the Newcomer Papin Prize Award. Being recognised for my work gives me satisfaction and encouragement to further develop my skills and see where my role as a technician can take me.

“I perform high-resolution in-vivo imaging using state-of-the-art imaging systems such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound and X-Ray computed tomography (CT). My role involves interacting with scientific researchers on a daily basis to deliver a high quality imaging service from study design to data acquisition, analysis and preparation of publications.

“This work provides me with diversity and a broad range of research projects. That gives me the opportunity to constantly expand my technical skills and knowledge, which would be unachievable without the guidance and expertise of my manager, Dr Michael Kelly. I’d like to thank the event organisers and inspirational speakers, my colleagues in Core Biotechnology Services and all of the researchers at the University of Leicester who I have worked with so far.”

The Papin Prizes are named after Denis Papin, a 17th century technician who worked with Robert Boyle. Papin invented the steam digester and was one of the first technicians to publish in his own name.

The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award also had a University of Leicester connection – winner, laboratory technician Victoria Wilson from the University of Nottingham, previously worked with Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys at the University of Leicester and made a pivotal contribution in the discovery of the technique now known as DNA fingerprinting.

DNA fingerprinting revolutionised the way in which police investigate crime and Victoria’s contribution was recently portrayed in the ITV drama Code of a Killer, starring David Threlfall, John Simm and Lydia Rose Brewley as Victoria.

Sir Alec said: “I cannot think of anybody more richly deserving of this recognition. Vicky was a technician with me throughout the 1980s, and not only did a fantastic job in keeping the very complicated show that was my laboratory on the road, but also contributed enormously to our research initially on gene evolution and then into and beyond the work that lead to the first DNA fingerprint.”

Talks from an astronaut, a lord and a knight

The consortium attracted over 400 guests, who heard from high-profile keynote speakers including:

  • Dr Helen Sharman OBE – first Briton in space, now Technical Manager at Kingston University
  • Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya KT CBE FREng FRS – Professor of Manufacturing and Chairman of the Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick, Trustee of the Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Professor Sir David Greenaway, Vice-Chancellor, University of Nottingham

These distinguished speakers focussed on broader issues around technical skills and education including the importance of technical skills in driving forward innovation, and current initiatives to ensure the future provision of technical education to young people.

Dr Sharman said: “Technicians are usually the unsung heroes and heroines of university life. More than just enabling practical laboratory classes and research, technicians are the glue without which huge chunks of university life would fall apart. Properly recognising technical skills and ensuring full developmental support will ensure universities benefit fully from this wealth of resource”.

Lord Bhattacharyya said: “Technicians play a vital role in supporting STEM subjects in universities and contribute enormously to research, education and outreach activities. I am delighted to see that education and apprenticeship opportunities for technical roles have increased over recent years, and this will encourage more young people to embark on a technical career.”


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