Helen Wright is a Research Technician in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, working with the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering group in Kroto.
I am a Research Technician in Materials Science, working with the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering group in Kroto. My role focuses on training undergraduate and MSc students to undertake project work with tissue culture and histology, and assisting the research staff and students in the lab. In particular this involves processing human skin and fat that is collected during surgery so that keratinocytes, fibroblasts and adipocytes can be harvested from it for use in tissue modelling. I am also responsible for creating and organising health and safety documentation for the group, ensuring that Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (CoSHH) and risk assessment paperwork is up to date and correctly recorded.
Before moving across to Materials Science I worked as a Bioengineering Teaching Technician in the Diamond, managing the Bioengineering Bacterial Teaching Laboratory, and teaching practical skills to over 500 students a year across 12 different engineering streams.
I originally studied at the University of Sheffield, gaining a BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Science in 2008. I then went on to undertake postgraduate research with the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery until 2010, investigating the role of chemotactic cytokines in trigeminal neuropathic pain. After a break away from the University I returned in 2015 as a trainee technician in the Faculty of Engineering and was immediately placed with the University’s new engineering teaching department, MEE. Within six months I was teaching the University of Sheffield International College students, and was soon given responsibility for the teaching lab. It wasn’t long before I was designing, delivering and leading teaching for students from Foundation to Masters level, as well as lecturing and being heavily involved with outreach.
I absolutely love attending events such as New Scientist Live, The Big Bang Fair and Engineering Imagination to promote STEM study and careers to young people, and particularly to ambassador Women in Engineering roles.
Research Technician in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering
For the last four years I have also been volunteering with the Gatsby Foundation as part of their Technicians Make it Happen Campaign – you may have seen the photograph of me in my purple shirt teaching Protein Structure on the Virtual Reality wall in various places on the University website! I absolutely love attending events such as New Scientist Live, The Big Bang Fair and Engineering Imagination to promote STEM study and careers to young people, and particularly to ambassador Women in Engineering roles.
One of the best things about working at the University is that there is always opportunity for development. I am currently undertaking a part-time PhD as a staff candidate, and my work colleagues and line manager are extremely supportive of this. My project is based with the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering in Microbial Systems Engineering. I am investigating ways to improve engineered E.coli bacteria to manufacture more human-like therapeutic proteins, such as cancer treatments. Using a microbial cell factory to make these therapeutics is considerable cheaper and more efficient than synthetic or using human and mammalian cells, and so could improve the availability of these life saving drugs for patients. I love working on my own research and being able to design and test my own scientific questions in the lab.
I am extremely lucky to be a part of two fantastic research groups, and to be able to experience two very different areas of Biological and Materials Engineering. My aim over the next few years is to finish my PhD work, and then progress my career down a more teaching-focussed role. I absolutely loved teaching engineering practicals and modules to undergraduates and masters students in the Diamond, so I know that this route is where my heart wants to go!
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