Students Staff

9 January 2019

Meet our technicians – Hannah Adams

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 3:50 pm

Hannah Adams is a Laboratory Technician in our School of Biological Sciences.  We met her to find out more about her work. 

Hannah Adams

Hannah Adams

What does your work involve?

I manage two research laboratories which host six different academic research groups, the research includes cancer biology, antibiotic resistance, metallo-proteins (covering a wide range of biological activities from apoptosis or ‘cell death’ to the production of greenhouse gases in bacteria) and virology. The Crystallography suite is also housed within these labs. This is where we carry out protein crystallography to determine the structure of proteins on a molecular level.

Managing the laboratories includes specialist equipment maintenance,  like our crystallography screening robot, training staff and students to safely use our laboratories, making sure we’ve got all the equipment and consumables we need for people to be able to run, as well as carrying out our own wet-bench research.

OK – we can’t go any further before you tell us more about the crystallography screening robot!

Proteins can be very fussy about what conditions they crystallise under so we have to screen lots of different reagents to find the best one for the protein we are currently working on. The robot is a cool bit of kit which allows us to run almost 100 conditions at once, speeding up the process of screening for crystal ‘hits’ (conditions which make a protein turn into crystals). We basically put all the reagents in and then the robot does all the hard work of mixing the conditions and protein together for us, making the whole process much quicker and easier.

How did you get into your role?

After my MSc I was working for a small company, running their laboratory, and realised that I much preferred working in an academic environment. When this position came up at Essex I applied for it instantly.

What qualifications do you need for your work?

I have a BSc Genetics and MSc Molecular Medicine, both from Essex, and I’m currently doing apart-time PhD alongside my job.

What sort of skills does being a technician require?

Most importantly – patience, good communication skills, a level head and common sense. You have to be able to think on your feet as no one day is the same. Specialist training for the area you are interested in is useful, but a lot of skills can be learnt on the job. A large number of the specialist skills I now have I have learnt since working as a technician.

What advice would you give someone who was interested in becoming a technician? 

If you have good communication skills, are organised and like working with people in a very varied job then being a technician is a good role for you. It can be hard work – technicians are what keep a lot of departments running smoothly, but it is an interesting and rewarding role.

What are you working on at the moment that is particularly interesting?

Copper nitrite reductase protein crystals

Copper nitrite reductase protein crystals

I have been assisting Dr Zwacka’s research group who are looking into cell death pathways and mechanisms in cancer and I also do a lot of work with protein crystallography, primarily in Dr Hough’s group, helping to discover the structure of proteins, which is both scientifically important and also very pretty!

What is your one top tip for people working at the University?

Make the most of the opportunities available at the University, there is so much you can do here both for your career and on a personal level.

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