Students Staff

People pages

27 October 2017

Zero tolerance of sexual violence, harassment or hate crime

Filed under: Campus news, Latest news, People pages, Student experience — Communications, CER @ 3:14 pm

The University of Essex does not tolerate any acts of sexual violence, harassment, or hate crime.

Zero tolerance means that we will take action and that the action will be proportionate to the circumstances of the case.

We recognise that the issue of sexual violence, harassment and hate crime is a global problem, but we are doing what we can  to tackle it here – and are working hard to put a stop to it in our community.

In March our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, set out our commitment to being an inclusive community with a zero tolerance of hate crime and sexual violence.

Since then, work has progressed. Here’s an update of what we’ve achieved so far:

Progress on the Tackling Sexual Violence, Harassment and Hate Crime Project

We have a high level University Action Plan. Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty, is the senior lead for this work, and the Director of Human Resources and the Academic Registrar are the people responsible for delivering the actions, all of which will be completed by the end of the academic year 2017–18.

A Project Officer has been appointed until July 2018 to support the implementation of the University’s Action Plan, and to work with colleagues from across the University and the Students’ Union to embed activity to shape the institutional culture in relation to sexual violence, harassment and hate crime.

Prevention

The university now offers bystander intervention awareness workshops. Bringing in the Bystander® is a bystander intervention workshop with a robust evidence-base. Rather than focusing strictly on the roles of perpetrator and victim, the highly interactive curriculum focuses on what you can do to intervene. It teaches bystanders how to safely intervene in instances where sexual violence, relationship violence or stalking may be occurring or where there may be risk that it will occur.

Book your place online now.

Watch our #ItEndsNow videos on YouTube and Vimeo

These workshops will help students, academics, professional services staff and community members to:

  • IDENTIFY behaviours on a continuum of violence
  • DEVELOP empathy for those who have experienced violence
  • PRACTICE safe and appropriate intervention skills
  • COMMIT to intervene before, during and after an incident of sexual abuse, relationship violence and stalking occurs

Read our guidelines for dealing with harassment and bullying.

Reporting and support

Contact itendsnow@essex.ac.uk for information and support. If an assault has just taken place and you are not in a safe place, feel at risk, or have any injuries that require urgent attention, call the emergency services on 999.

If you are on campus, please follow the guidance available online about emergency contacts.

If you are living in University accommodation on the Southend or Colchester campuses, Security can alert senior on-call Residence Life staff.

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3 October 2017

Missing home

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Heather Leathley @ 5:04 pm

Manda and Heather, who write our friends@essex newsletter, are empty nest survivors, who appreciate that friends and families will have a lot of questions as they watch new undergraduates head off to university. Manda’s daughter has just started at Liverpool and Heather’s daughter has completed her degree at Essex.

Here Heather talks about coping with her daughter’s homesickness.

Heather, left, and Manda, right, have both had children go off to university.

Heather, left, and Manda, right, have both had children go off to university.

Our daughter had secured her place at her first choice university. She was on the brink of an exciting next step, a journey of discovery.

But, as is often the case, once she’d arrived she was struck by a bad bout of homesickness. As a parent, nothing had prepared me for that first phone call when I couldn’t t hear any words down the phone because my daughter was crying. As parents it came as rather a shock. Our confident, outgoing offspring was miserable. And we’d only dropped her off at her lovely, brand new student flat a few hours beforehand.

To begin with, whether we were Skyping or telephoning, nothing my husband or I said seemed to make her feel any better. Steeling ourselves not to dash up the motorway to pick her up was exhausting and at times made us feel like bad parents.

Neither my husband or I had gone to University, and we had both left home as teenagers to start our careers so we weren’t really prepared for how daunting it can be to try to carve a niche for yourself among thousands of peers. It’s a real balancing act – walking the tightrope between being an interested or an interfering parent, and there were times we were in danger of crossing the line, as we put forward lots of different options, none of which seemed to make any difference.

Thursday night of the first week was particularly bad. Fortunately we were away on business, otherwise I know that is the time we would have leapt into the car and whisked her back home. But, if we had done that, the regrets and recriminations would have lasted a lifetime.

Because, I’m pleased to say that just the next day, the storm began to break. She met some fellow students from her course and began to make friends. She even went on to share a flat with two of them for her second and third year of study.On the Saturday of that first week, at Freshers’ Fair, she signed up for several societies and went on to be President of one and Secretary of another.

Over the next few weeks her grandparents visited Campus with some of her favourite meals for the freezer, which went down a treat and her friends and ours sent little gifts in the post, which raised her spirits. She also quickly found a job on Campus and kept working throughout her three years.

All this activity kept her busy and introduced her to loads of new friends from all areas of life that she still keeps in contact with today. I’m delighted to say that three years later, we were there to watch our radiant, smiling daughter receive her First class degree at graduation and land a fantastic job. So, the brief, initially painful stage was most definitely worth it.

And she’s got friendships and memories she’ll treasure for the rest of her life.

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Give your wellbeing a work out

Filed under: Campus news, People pages, Sport, What's on — Communications, CER @ 10:53 am
To join the Wellbeing Workout programme: contact Jayde on jhubbaa@essex.ac.uk

To join the Wellbeing Workout programme: contact Jayde on jhubbaa@essex.ac.uk

If your wellbeing could do with a work out – why not join the Wellbeing Workout Programme?

This special wellbeing initiative is looking for new recruits to take part in three different activities over the course of the year. They are:

  • Circuit based gym sessions
  • Green Exercise
  • Mindfulness sessions

You can also get involved in green exercise sessions:

Next Session: Tuesday 10  October (the sessions are weekly - each Tuesday until 14 November)

Time: 11am (the duration of the activity will be 1 hour and 15 minutes for each session)

As part of the research you will be asked to fill out a short questionnaire.

For more information and to sign up – please email our post-grad researcher Jayde on jhubbaa@essex.ac.uk

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28 September 2017

We know how you feel!

Filed under: People pages, Student experience — Heather Leathley @ 2:40 pm
Heather and Manda, our "empty nest survivors"

Heather and Manda, our “empty nest survivors”

As two ‘empty nest survivors’, Manda and Heather, who compose our friends@essex newsletter, appreciate that friends and families will have a lot of questions as they watch new undergraduates head off to University.

Manda’s daughter has just started at Liverpool and Heather’s daughter has completed her degree here at Essex.

Here are a few of their top tips for getting through the first few weeks:

  • It’s a real balancing act – walking the tightrope between interested and interfering parent.  And when students are heading off to university, even the most laidback of parents have their moments when they are in danger of crossing the line.
  • When you get to the new bedroom, prop the door ajar while you unload.  If you keep the bedroom door open in those valuable first few hours, it’s a welcome sign to all the other flatmates, who can pop their heads in to say hello. All the bedrooms have fire doors, so wedging the door open shouldn’t become a habit.
  • You may be planning a big supermarket shop before you head off.  There’s a large Tesco near the Colchester Campus and the best advice is to get there as early as possible.  By mid-afternoon on arrivals day it can be very chaotic.
  • In Southend, there’s a large Sainsbury’s supermarket opposite University Square, so no car required.  It is open 10am until 4pm on Sundays. In each kitchen at University Square you will find some cotton tote bags which can be used to carry back the shopping.
  • Disappear for an hour or so for a cup of tea and then come back to say goodbye. It doesn’t make that farewell too final and gives you both time to compose yourselves. It’s one of the reasons we now offer free tea and scones at Wivenhoe House on Arrivals Day, Sunday 1 October between 11am and 3pm.
  • In Southend you can blow off the cobwebs with a stroll on the promenade. It’s a good excuse for an ice-cream!
  • Let your student be the first to make contact, after you’ve departed for the journey home. It’s their moment to spread their wings and you don’t want to cramp their style by calling every 10 minutes, especially if you are having a whale of a time at home.
  • Be tough if you get that gut-wrenching homesick call. It will be one of the hardest things you have to do as a parent, but you have to do it, otherwise it could lead to regrets and recriminations on both sides.
  • If you head back during term-time for a visit, make a few frozen packs of a favourite family meal, in individual and group size. But whatever you do, don’t turn up unannounced!!!
  • A few silly little presents through the post can be a nice touch, even the most stoical of students will welcome the odd surprise gift or two.

Just remember, Christmas isn’t that far away.

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19 September 2017

Meet our new head of the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Tags: — Communications Office @ 4:43 pm
Professor Anthony Vickers

Professor Anthony Vickers

Professor Anthony Vickers is our new Head of the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, so we thought we’d catch up with him and ask him about his new role.

How long have you worked at Essex and what roles have you had?
I have worked at the University for 32 years, in the Department of Physics, the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering, and now in the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering (CSEE). I have held many academic positions within those departments, including Head of Department (ESE), Director of Education, as well as a University role as Head of Study Abroad.

What is the best thing about working at Essex?
I have always enjoyed working at Essex due to the friendly, cooperative, and professional way of colleagues across all areas.

What are your plans for the School?
The School is currently in a strong financial position with a rich portfolio of courses and research activities. The plans are to further strengthen our education and research excellence. We are currently recruiting new academic and professional service staff. Eleven new academic staff will have joined us during the Autumn term, with more due in spring and Summer. New professional service staff will strengthen our administration of degree apprenticeships and international partnerships. New, internationally competitive research and education laboratories are planned, including visualisation, neuro engineering, embedded systems, and games AI (artificial intelligence) laboratories. The School is introducing a new Week 2 for all first-year students as a transition week, with the emphasis on ‘build something wonderful’. This initiative is part of a larger initiative to encourage our students to focus on creativity and imagination, in the use of the skills they acquire with us.

What is your area of research/expertise?
My research activity is mainly in the physics of optoelectronic materials and devices, focusing on novel materials for photodetectors and Terahertz emitters/detectors. Photodetectors are the receiving element of fibre optic systems. Our research aims to develop new more efficient detectors to reduce costs and increase sustainability. Terahertz emitters and detectors are used in the development of instruments to study proteins for future drugs. The aim is to be able to design drugs, through simulation and experimental studies, to reduce drug costs and make them more widely available. I collaborate on this work with Dr Phil Reeves and Professor Chris Reynolds, from the School of Biological Sciences.

Tell us about any student achievements you are particularly proud of?
The School has an excellent record of providing students to the local, national, and international community, with a graduate destination record which has hovered around 90% for the last three years. The School is also proud its showcase Capstone Project Day at which over 30 company representatives see and discuss our students’ achievements, giving both students and company representatives, an insight into each other’s work. Finally our MSc and PhD students develop into our colleagues, with many of them taking research positions, either with us, or with other universities.

Describe in a sentence what makes CSEE special?
CSEE is a friendly School, with dedicated students and staff, all with a strong emphasis on creativity and imagination.

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15 August 2017

Dave pedals for underprivileged young people in nine-day challenge

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Sport — Tags: , — Nerissa Blower @ 4:33 pm
Dr Dave Parry

Dr Dave Parry

Our Director of Sport Dr Dave Parry will be cycling 969 miles in nine days and hopes to raise £2,000 for IntoUniversity, a charity which helps children and young people from a poor background achieve their potential.

Explaining why he chose this charity Dave said: “Having come from a working class family, and being the only person in my family to go to University, I am particularly passionate about giving young people life chances and opportunities. I visited an IntoUniversity centre in Hackney and the staff there were really dedicated and enthusiastic and the work that they are doing is really making a difference to the lives of those young people.”

Dave, who lives in Brightlingsea, will be joining over 800 cyclists for the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, starting at Land’s End on 9 September and finishing at John O’Groats on 17 September.

Although he has taken part in a few triathlons and multi-day cycles in the past, this sponsored cycle will be his biggest accomplishment to date.

“Time is a challenge, as I have a busy work schedule and a young family. I am definitely ‘under-cooked’, but hopefully will ride myself into fitness as the event progresses (fingers crossed anyway!)”

To make a donation to the sponsored ride, please visit Dave’s fundraising page.

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26 July 2017

Welcome 2017 – your role in helping new students feel they belong

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Student experience — Communications, CER @ 3:40 pm

Did you know that students who feel a stronger sense of belonging are more likely to complete their degree, and demonstrate higher achievement in their studies? During Welcome 2017, we can all play a part in helping students feel that they belong. 

We spoke to Dr Gillian Sandstrom and Head of Residence Life, Victoria Frost, about how even saying “hello” to someone new can make a big difference to their experience settling in at Essex.

Dr Gillian Sandstrom

Dr Gillian Sandstrom

  • Tell us about your study Social Interaction and Well-Being: The Surprising Power of Weak Ties.

When I first arrived on campus there was quite a distance between the research lab and my supervisor’s office, and that walk took me past a hot dog stand. Somehow I developed a “relationship” with the lady who worked there; I would smile at her and say “hi” whenever I walked past. I realized that this always made me feel a bit better, like I belonged on campus. I ended up studying this phenomenon for my PhD.

I found that people who had, on average, more daily interactions with weak ties (i.e acquaintances) than other people were, on average, a little bit happier. Also, on days when people had more interactions with weak ties than they usually did, they tended to be a bit happier than they usually were.

I’ve been at Essex for two years now, and almost every time I walk across campus now, I see someone I know. It makes me feel at home here.

  • What can staff do to build these weak ties with students?

Just say “hi!” I ran a study involving my students. For one group, I stood at the door and greeted students as they arrived. Another group wrote their names on name boards, which were displayed on their desks. The third was a control group, which received no greeting and no name boards. Students in both of the experimental groups reported higher interest/enjoyment than students in the control group. This is something simple, that any instructor can do. Just make sure it’s genuine; if the students think your heart isn’t in it, it probably won’t be effective.

It’s not just academic staff that can build these connections with students. I stood on the pavement outside Starbucks, and bribed people to help with my research, by giving them Starbucks cards, which they had to use right away to buy a coffee. I asked some people to have their money ready and avoid unnecessary conversation.  I asked other people to have a genuine social interaction: smile, make contact, and have a brief conversation. When surveyed I found that people who had a minimal social interaction were in a better mood, enjoyed their experience more, and felt more connected to other people. This means everyone can make a difference, whether you’re in food services, cleaning services, security, or anything else.

  • What are the benefits to weak ties – apart from wellbeing?

Besides making both parties feel good, weak ties can provide a sense of belonging. One of my undergraduate students ran a survey assessing students’ campus involvement, use of support services, and social relationships, and how these were related to interest/enjoyment and belonging. Students who reported that more staff greeted them on campus also reported greater interest/enjoyment and a greater sense of belonging. This is crucial, because research shows that students who feel a stronger sense of belonging are more likely to complete their degree, and demonstrate higher achievement in their studies.

 

Victoria Frost is head of Residence Life and Student Development as part of our Student Support service.  She plays a vital role in the smooth running of our Arrivals and Welcome programmes and believes that we all have a part to play in creating the right welcoming atmosphere for new students.

Victoria Frost

Victoria Frost

Tell us about the “belonging” theme being applied to Arrivals and Welcome this year – what are we trying to achieve?

There’s a student development theory by Nancy Schlossberg called Mattering and Marginality. If a student feels like they matter to someone at the university, they get more involved in their university experience and develop and learn more. Feeling marginalised can be defined as a sense of not fitting in and can lead to self-consciousness, irritability, and depression. People are more likely to feel marginalised during transition periods, like starting university. It’s so important that students feel like they belong at the University of Essex.

  • How can the principles of “weak ties” be applied to Arrivals Day and Welcome?

We would love it if staff helped students find their way around, showed them the Find Your Way app, engaged them in conversation or introduced them to other students. If you see someone who looks lost, scared, or uncomfortable, go up and ask if you can help. Think about what you can do to help students get to know each other, in departmental events, in lectures, while they’re waiting in a queue. Even just smiling and saying hello can make a difference.

  • What about those who aren’t in student-facing roles? Can they play a part?

Absolutely! Everyone is involved in making students feel like they matter. Most staff will encounter students at some point in their day. You’re likely to pass someone walking to your office, or back home again. It might be during lunch, or walking to a meeting or someone else’s office. Wherever you see a student, there’s an opportunity to use a weak tie, to make them feel like they matter.

  • If I see someone looking lost or alone – should I approach them? Even though that isn’t my job?

Please do. Colchester Campus can be really confusing to navigate for new people (actually, sometimes even for those of us who have been here for years!). It can make a big difference to just offer some help. Whatever you’re able to do.  Helping a student to build confidence and develop competence can help them feel like they belong here.

  • If I don’t know how to direct someone – who should I refer them to?

If it’s about trying to find a location and you don’t know it, walk the student to the Information Centre if you can. For a lot of student service queries, refer the student to the Student Information Desk on the first floor of the Silberrad Student Centre. They’re a really knowledgeable team and can answer a lot of questions or make a further referral if appropriate.

  • Does the “weak ties” theory apply just to Arrivals and Welcome? Or does it apply all year round?

It’s definitely applicable, throughout the year and actually throughout the student’s entire time at the University of Essex. It’s applicable for undergraduate and postgraduate students too. It is particularly important at the beginning of each year; there’s evidence that the first six weeks are the most important time period for making sure a student feels that sense of belonging.

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6 July 2017

Social Interaction and Well-Being: The Surprising Power of Weak Ties.

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Research impact — Communications, CER @ 11:23 am

“Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.”  Benjamin Franklin.

Gillian Sandstrom 200x300

Dr Gillian Sandstrom

In her fascinating study “Social Interaction and Well-Being: The Surprising Power of Weak Ties.” Dr Gillian Sandstrom found that even brief everyday social interactions, from a quick chat with your barista to saying hello to someone you pass by everyday – can have surprising effects on our happiness and wellbeing. Here she tells us more about her work and how we can all benefit from “weak ties”.

  • Can you tell us about your study and its findings – in a nut shell?

I did a postgraduate degree in Psychology after having spent 10 years in the workforce as a computer programmer. I had a strong case of imposter syndrome when I first arrived on campus, since I was 10 years older than the other students, and I didn’t have the same background training that they did (my undergraduate degree was in computer science, and I had only taken three psychology modules). There was quite a distance between the research lab and my supervisor’s office, and that walk took me past a hot dog stand. Somehow I developed a “relationship” with the lady who worked at the hot dog stand; I would smile at her and say hi whenever I walked past. I realized that this always made me feel a bit better, like I belonged on campus. I ended up studying this phenomenon for my PhD.

I asked people to keep track of all of their social interactions – any time they said hi to someone that they recognized (i.e., anyone except a complete stranger) – for six days. They carried around two small tally counters, and clicked one every time they interacted with a strong tie (i.e., a close friend or family member), and another one every time they interacted with a weak tie (i.e., an acquaintance). I found that people who had, on average, more daily interactions with weak ties than other people were, on average, a little bit happier. Also, on days when people had more interactions with weak ties than they usually did, they tended to be a bit happier than they usually were.

I’ve been at Essex for two years now, and almost every time I walk across campus now, I see someone I know. It makes me feel at home here.

  • What can staff do to build these weak ties with students?

Just say hi! I ran a study last year in my statistics module. The students break into three groups for their computer lab sessions, and I did something different for each group. For one group, I stood at the door and greeted students as they arrived. Another group wrote their names on name boards, which were displayed on their desks. The third was a control group, which received no greeting and no nameboards. Students in both of the experimental groups reported higher interest/enjoyment than students in the control group. This is something simple, that any instructor can do. Just make sure it’s genuine; if the students think your heart isn’t in it, it probably won’t be effective.

It’s not just academic staff that can build these connections with students. During my PhD, I stood on the pavement outside of Starbucks, and bribed people to help with my research, by giving them Starbucks cards, which they had to use right away to buy a coffee. I asked some people to be as efficient as possible: have their money ready and avoid unnecessary conversation. I told them that this would be helpful to the barista, who just wants to get through their shift. I asked other people to have a genuine social interaction: smile, make contact, and have a brief conversation. When people emerged from the store with their coffee, I asked them to fill out a brief survey. I found that people who had a minimal social interaction were in a better mood, enjoyed their Starbucks experience more, and felt more connected to other people. This means everyone can make a difference, whether you’re in food services, cleaning services, security, or anything else.

  • How do the students react?

When I greet my students outside of the classroom, at the beginning of the year they seem kind of embarrassed – sometimes they giggle, or look away, as if they can’t quite believe it. But they get used to it, and seem to enjoy saying hi back.  When I did my greeting/name board study, I asked students whether they had ever talked to me, whether I would recognize them if I saw them on campus, and whether I knew their name. Two students who were filling in the survey came up to me and straight out asked me if I knew their names. One of them literally jumped up and down and seemed quite delighted when I told her that I knew her name.

Since arriving at Essex, I’ve run a study at the Tate Modern art gallery, which is similar to, but the reverse of the one I did at Starbucks. I trained volunteers to approach gallery visitors and start a conversation about a particular exhibit in the Turbine Hall. The volunteers were a bit nervous about it – they usually wait for visitors to approach them, and didn’t want to intrude. However, when we surveyed visitors, those who had been spoken to by a volunteer (vs. those who hadn’t talked to a volunteer) were in a better mood, and felt more connected to the exhibit and to other people. This suggests that both the person initiating the conversation (as in the Starbucks study), and also the person being talked to (as in the Tate study), enjoy these kinds of interactions.

  • What challenges are there to developing these kinds of relationships with students?

Some people are bad at remembering names (because it’s really hard!), and others are bad at remembering faces. In some departments, we do team teaching; we only see a group of students for a few weeks, then someone else takes over. Not to mention that class sizes can be really large, and we have hundreds of new students every year. The whole idea of learning names can seem hopeless, and even pointless. The students do seem to really appreciate it, and I personally think all academic staff should know at least a handful of students by name, but I’m really happy that my research suggests that there are benefits to simply greeting students. Anyone can do that!

  • What are the benefits to weak ties – apart from wellbeing? Are there any downsides?

Besides making both parties feel good, weak ties can provide a sense of belonging. For her capstone project, one of my undergraduate students ran a survey assessing students’ campus involvement, use of support services, and social relationships, and how these were related to interest/enjoyment and belonging. Students who reported that more staff greeted them on campus also reported greater interest/enjoyment and a greater sense of belonging. This is crucial, because research shows that students who feel a stronger sense of belonging are more likely to complete their degree, and demonstrate higher achievement in their studies.

As far as downsides go, I do get asked to write an exorbitant number of reference letters, and it can take me a really long time to get anywhere on campus because I keep running into people. Which is funny, because when I was a kid, a trip to the grocery store with my Dad would take hours, because he always ran into someone he knew. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

  • What advice can you give someone who feels awkward or self conscious?

One of the things that makes it scary to talk to a stranger is that you don’t know if they will reject you. But both my personal experience and my research find that rejection is very, very uncommon. I have had lots of nice chats after approaching someone who looked lost and helping them find their way. I’m convinced that both of us have left those interactions with a smile on our face. Know, however, that sometimes people don’t want help – they want to figure things out on their own. Don’t take it personally if someone turns down your offer – just try again with the next person, who will probably be more than happy to accept your help.

 

 

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29 June 2017

Meet our technicians – Chief Technician, Steven Brewer

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Communications, CER @ 2:14 pm
  • Name: Steven Brewer
  • Job title: Chief Technician
  • Which department do you work in?: Psychology

Our team of technicians from the Psychology department. Steven Brewer is pictured third from the left.

  • Are you part of a team?: Yes, including myself, there are seven members of the technical team. The team has grown over the past eighteen months and there are now three Technicians and three Senior Technicians in the Psychology Department.
  • How long have you been at Essex?: I’ve worked at the University for just over two and a half years.
  • What is your role/your daily responsibility?: As Chief Technician, I supervise a team of six technicians. The Psychology Department is spread across two buildings, Square 1 building and the Centre for Brain Science (CBS). I oversee and am responsible for the installation, maintenance and support of all teaching, research and office facilities. This is very wide ranging and includes devices such as eyetrackers, electrocephalography (EEG), biofeedback systems and large computer labs, to name just a few. The team support staff and students in their technical requirements. We regularly develop computer programs for experiments used in research projects. This can sometimes also involve reprographic and video editing work. We occasionally develop small electronic solutions for experiments where off the shelf devices are not readily available or suitable.
  • Are there any projects you’re working on that are particularly exciting/interesting?: Construction of the new STEM building is currently underway. Once complete, there will hopefully be new and exciting opportunities for the technical teams in each department of the faculty of Science and Health to collaborate.
  • How did you get into this role?: I worked in London as a Senior Systems Engineer for a global media company for twelve years. I entered the education industry back in 2013 and was employed at the University in the role of Senior Technician in 2014. I was appointed as Chief Technician in July 2016.
  • What qualifications do you have/ what study path did you take?: I studied Computer Science and Engineering at College where I achieved A-Levels and higher BTEC qualifications. This developed my interest in a wider range of technology. I continued my studies at Ravensbourne in South East London and obtained a HND in Broadcast Engineering and Digital Technology. I have continued studies in various forms over the years. I have completed short courses in Hewlett Packard and Brocade Storage Area Networks, and am an Apple Certified Associate for OSX to name a few.
  • What sort of skills does being a technician require?: Technicians cover a very wide range of tasks. I believe it is useful for a technician to have a broad range of technical skills and an underlying thirst for technology. Good IT skills are very important. Programming experience is also very useful, especially in Psychology. It is also important for a technician to have good interpersonal and communication skills as our role is very customer focused.
  • What advice would give someone interested in becoming a technician?: Having a love for technology is a great starting point. It’s important to pick your area of study carefully as technical roles are very diverse. It’s very useful to keep up to date on the latest technology as you never know when you may need to adopt something new.

Left to right; our technicians pictured, are:

Jonathan Boalch
Alan Brignull
Steven Brewer
Woakil Ahamed
Elena Broggin
Monika Steinke

 

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16 June 2017

Meet our technicians – Julie Arvidson Molecular Biology Technician

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Communications, CER @ 1:53 pm
An image of our technicians

Our team of Biological Sciences technicians. Julie is pictured front left.

Our Technicians perform a crucial role. To find out more about their fascinating work, we spoke to Julie Arvidson, Cell and Molecular Biology Technician in the School of Biological Sciences. 

  • Name Julie Arvidson
  • Job title Cell & Molecular Biology Technician
  • Which department do you work in? School of Biological Sciences
  • Are you part of a team? Yes, I’m part of a great  team working in such diverse areas as the Coral Reef Unit, Core Services, Plant Productivity, Proteomics, Teaching Labs and Cancer Biology – which are just a few of the Research and Teaching areas.
  • How long have you been at Essex?  Since 1989, and as you would expect I’ve seen some monumental changes within the School and University as a whole.
  • What is your role/your daily responsibility? My role, along with my colleagues, is to support Research, embed Health and Safety, maintain facilities, teach practical skills to our undergraduates, postgraduates, and visitors. My area is principally Mammalian Tissue Culture, for cancer biology and immunology. I also train my Estates colleagues in Biohazard Awareness.
  • Are there any projects you’re working on that are particularly exciting/interesting? I’m not directly involved with the Research anymore but I find the Research in Cancer Biology very exciting with both Greg Brooke and Elena Klenova developing ways to categorise and destroy cancer cells, and Chris Cooper’s Research into new oxygen carriers to replace blood is amazing.
  • How did you get into this role? My education didn’t quite go to plan so I started working as a School Science Technician for my old school. Fate brought me to Colchester and despite applying for a Plant role I was chosen as an Animal Tissue Culture Technician, working with some inspirational Academics. As my interest in Health and Safety  grew I was asked to train colleagues in Biohazard Awareness as well as looking after the Radioisotope laboratory.
  • What qualifications do you have/ what study path did you take? I have an HNC which I studied part-time before joining the team here, and then was supported by the School to study part-time for a Cell & Molecular Biology Degree from Anglia Ruskin University. I have just completed a Certificate in Health and Safety and I am now continuing with the Diploma course to complement my role. Never think it’s too late to study!
  • What sort of skills does being a technician require? This is a hard question as my colleagues have  a huge variety of skills; from Amanda who has tremendous organising skills, Phil and John who have great skills with complex analytical equipment, Sue who is so green- fingered and meticulous in running our Plant Growth facilities, to Russell whose skills enable him to organise very successful diving field trips to Indonesia and maintain the Coral Reef tanks.  Resourcefulness, observational skills and attention to detail  are all important, but over 1,000 skills have been identified by the Science Council for technical posts.
  • What advice would give someone interested in becoming a technician? This is a fantastic time to think about becoming a Technician as there is a sudden realisation that by 2020 the UK will need around 700,000 new Technicians. There are new initiatives to recognise and support Technical staff with Professional Registration, Apprenticeships and Papin Awards recognising Technical contributions  across all areas.  We are now included in Athena Swan awards and the University’s courses allow personal development as never before.
  • Tell us something unusual about yourself, a hobby, an interest, something we might be surprised by I still own my racy Honda motorbike, Alex, who took me to Cambridge to study for my degree.  I’m planning to get him back into work this summer.

Left to right; our technicians pictured, are:

  • Julie Arvidson
  • Lynwen James
  • Farid Benyahia
  • Julie Double
  • Phil Davey
  • Jackie Maidwell
  • Gregor Grant
  • Elizabeth Welbourn
  • Amanda Clements
  • David Knight
  • Tania Creswell-Maynard
  • Sue Corbett
  • Sally-Ann Sharp
  • Giles Ward
  • Chris Clow
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