We spoke to Georgina, Head of Technical Programme at the Cambridge Genomics Laboratory, to discover more about her role.
Could you tell us what your role is East Genomic Laboratory Hub?
I oversee all the technical workforce and all the equipment in the Cambridge Genomics Laboratory. I manage the space to ensure the sample workflow is working effectively and that we've got all the chemicals and reagents that we need to process the samples.
I have line management responsibilities for the technical workforce and promote a career pathway for staff within the technical team.
What inspired you to a career in science?
I graduated from university with a BSc in Biochemistry and I was determined to become a clinical scientist in cytogenetics; I was fascinated by genetics, human development and genetic inheritance of disease.
What other qualifications do you have?
I'm also a registered genetic technologist which isn't a statutory regulated registration at the moment but we are campaigning for it to be!
I’m also completing my portfolio with the Institute for Biomedical Science and I’ll become registered as a biomedical scientist very soon hopefully.
Can you tell us about why you chose to work here?
Addenbrooke’s stood out to me as it was the regional genetics laboratory for the East (at that time). I enquired about some work experience and I found out they had technician posts. I was successful in obtaining a technician post in October 2005 and haven't looked back since!
I started in the laboratory as a junior lab technician and was successful in obtaining several promotions within the technical team. I worked my way up to technical lead which was a newly created post.
What does a usual day look like for you?
I work very closely with the quality team to help ensure the lab maintains its UKAS accreditation as well as following ISO standards which helps promote trust and reassurance from our users. It’s important that we are treating all samples the same and giving accurate and reliable data.
I also work very closely with the health and safety team to make sure the laboratory is handling chemicals and equipment safely. However, I have to be prepared for the unexpected in case we can’t get a reagent in or a piece of equipment isn’t functioning and will make arrangements as needed.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Genomic diagnosis includes rare diseases, prenatal, tumours, residual disease status, and genotyping patients for rare variants which may affect their response to treatments. I enjoy being hands-on with the samples and actually being part of that patient diagnosis.
An important role of the technical team is to process samples in the laboratory. We receive bloods, tumour samples and prenatal samples. For example we extract DNA from the blood samples we receive and process them in a timely manner in the lab and put them through large-scale DNA sequencers. This provides accurate quality data to the clinical scientists which allows them to analyse the case and report back results to our consultants and clinicians.
It is rewarding helping to deliver accurate data which can give patients answers and often help with their treatment. Although we're not patient facing in the laboratory all of our samples are from patients, so every sample is important.
I really enjoy managing the people and the equipment in the lab. I love seeing people come in straight from university and build a career in the laboratory. Recently, I've really enjoyed redesigning the laboratory space and one of my biggest achievements was building a whole new sequencing room.
I’m very proud to say that our laboratory houses some large-scale sequencers so we can provide either targeted or panel testing for certain panels of genes where the consultants may be interested in finding out whether there's a mutation or a deletion or duplication in a certain gene.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy being with my family. I have two children we go on lots of country walks around national trust properties. I enjoy watching my son play football or baking cakes with my daughter.
I’d like to thank the technical team as they all work incredibly hard without them we wouldn't have a service.
I’d like to encourage anyone who loves being hands-on in the lab to consider a career in a genomic laboratory and pursue accreditation with as a genetic technologist or as a biomedical scientist.