Keily, Michelle, Freya, and Nick at Truro and Debbie at Penwith are the backbone of the Science Teams and have been explaining what they like best about their roles.
Debbi Rodger, at Penwith College, says: “What I love about my job is I learn every day. When something goes well I get so much satisfaction. The staff here are all so lovely and top of their game. There is so much I find so interesting.
“People misunderstand what technicians in any department do. The prep that goes into the final product is phenomenal. College is a great environment to work in. Your work has such a positive effect on students. They’re all so happy and engaged and confident.”
Debbi also notes: “My mind has to be on health and safety at all times, with what I’m doing and what staff and students are doing.”
Having previously worked in schools for sixteen years, with the last five based in a Science Faculty including Prep Room work and organising Science Week, it was there her love of Science was born. “This is a challenging role and the learning curve is steep but I have huge support from the Technicians at the other campuses and I love my job,” says Debbi.
Her advice to young people is: “You can always change direction. Nothing you have ever done before is wasted.”
The Truro Prep Room is staffed by three former students of the College, and led by a Senior Technician who previously worked in research at Cambridge University.
Keily Littlefield, who has a degree in Applied Biology and a Masters in Science, worked for five years at the Department of Agriculture, five years at Novaris, one of the largest pharmaceutical multinationals in the world, and six years at Cambridge University as a research assistant in the departments of Anatomy, Biochemistry and Pathology.
“Biology is my favourite,” she says. “Petri dishes, growing bacteria. We also do fly breeding, fish head dissection and microbiological projects using E.coli and Lactobacillus using MRS.
“People think we only work during term time, but a lot of the really important work is done at other times, when we then have the time to do it. Ordering things, maintaining all equipment, rooms and materials. When we had new lab refits over the summer, including the new state-of-the-art Menalhyl building for our T Level Science students, I ordered and set up everything.”
Her message to potential students is: “Everyone should know that we don’t just do A Levels, there are the Diplomas and T Levels.”
Freya Constance did the Forensics Diploma as a student at the College before getting a full Forensic Science degree and becoming a Technician. She says: “I like helping with the Forensics Diploma best and assisting students with their practical project.
“At Truro we’re such a big department one of the biggest challenges is the size of the buildings, with long corridors and several floors, and so many rooms. Getting everything for practicals to where it is needed can be a lot of work and a lot of moving kit a long way!”
Nick Pascoe also did the Forensics Diploma at Truro College, and his tutor recommended him for the job. “My favourite thing is making up chemicals, different chemicals I’ve never heard of before, for titrations and enthalpy practicals,” says Nick.
Michelle Franklin previously worked in the Clinical Chemistry department at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust Treliske and did the Access to Science course at the College before her degree in Analytical Chemistry at Plymouth.
“I lead in Chemistry, Keily leads in Biology,” says Michelle. “I really enjoy supporting students with their projects, which can be very interesting and quirky. I consider it ‘play,’ it’s good fun.
“Cleaning is one of the boring parts of the job but very important,” she adds, “as there must be no contaminants, or you won’t get the right results.
“I look after all the chemicals and health and safety is vitally important. The chemical store and chemical shower are checked and tested regularly as safety is paramount.
“I was here three days a week during one lockdown and full-time during another. It was important to have someone on site to do safety checks, maintain the laboratories and equipment.”
The Team also highlighted the sustainability and recycling measures that the Science department maintain, that most people may not be aware of.
“We wash and reuse use things, where in industry they might throw them away,” says Keily. “We sterilize equipment and recycle wherever we can.”
“In our practical experiments all elements that can be reused and recycled are,” adds Nick. “We’re sustainability-minded.”