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Mark Interview

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WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A SENIOR TECHNICIAN We spoke to Mark a senior animal technician to find out Hi Mark Tell us about your job role I am a senior animal technician currently responsible for managing the immunodeficient mouse colonies within the new Centre for Cancer Imaging CCI Facility at The Institute for Cancer Research ICR in Sutton South West London I pay particular attention to the health and welfare of the animals in my care so I can help provide the best possible research animals and services I work closely with the diverse range of research scientists advising on selecting the most appropriate mouse models for training and makes sure you are competent to do a their projects I work as part of a small team there are procedure They have to make sure that you are 4 senior technicians and 2 Trainee competent enough to provide the technicians in the facility right now I have I do think that the animal with the best welfare That s completed my first major project animals here get looked what it all comes down to in the developing a new immunodeficient end mouse model known as the NSG Nude after better than some This model applies two of the 3R s people s pets do What do you love most about your job Refinement and Reduction something that The main thing is contributing towards the research that is very important when it comes to the welfare of is helping to make a difference We re helping to save animals used in research people s lives That s ultimately what we re working towards Secondly in the nine years I ve been here I ve Have you been a senior technologist long never had a slow day because there is always something Around 5 years I started as an agency technician in a to do 6 week placement then later ICR were recruiting so I We also get to be involved in really interesting work went for a job interview I ended up getting the job Sometimes with very short notice the researchers will and I ve been here ever since get a phone call to say the hospital is operating on a patient they will provide a small piece of tumour that is What was your journey from technician to senior implanted into an immune deficient mouse which has technician like the greatest potential for engraftment and therefore I started off as a trainee technician and managed to becoming humanised get my Home Office Licence within 6 months You will It s very much tailored research these days because be required to attend a 2 day course and sit a multiple everyone is different So one form of therapy that might choice exam at the end to obtain a licence The work well on a tumour for one patient may not licencing has since changed slightly so the Named necessarily work for the same type of tumour in Training and Competency Officer assesses your another patient

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By planting these tumours into the mice and then targeting them with certain drugs we are more likely to discover the most effective drug for that specific tumour That way the patient is less likely to be put through unnecessary and intense treatments Can you describe a typical day at work The main task each day is to check the health of the animals make sure they have food and water ensure all equipment is connected up and working properly There are approximately 1800 cages here and each technician has roughly 300 cages to look after each day It seems like there is a lot to get through but you haven t got to clean them out every day I start by checking through the animals starting with my most immune deficient strain I have a trainee technician who works with me also checking the breeding and stock animals Then if there are any health issues found we can attend to those straight away Next I record the litters that are born that day and then on certain days I wean the mice that are 3 weeks old All this information is recorded on our extensive animal database which is vitally important when working with breeding colonies With regards to breeding we like to work with the same colonies of animals so you become very familiar with their behaviour and specific requirements as each strain is different The animals get used to you too that s why we don t rotate because they become associated with the handler and their smells It is less stressful for the animals that way Another one of my jobs is helping the researchers to select the most appropriate model for their work So if they are looking to grow a certain type of tumour I offer advice on the best mouse model to use We also aim to work closely with the researchers to improve their interactions with the animals to help provide the right Culture of Care We also work closely with all our researchers to improve their interactions with the animals and help provide the right culture of care I really enjoy this aspect where I get to train our staff and teach them about our high welfare standards They look to you to teach them the best methods for the animals That s ultimately what being a tech is about helping the researchers get the best out of their experiments by minimising the stress to the animals as best you can If you want to achieve the best results that is the most important thing How has being a member of the IAT helped you I have completed level 2 and 3 of the IAT qualifications That helped me get to membership level and go on to become a Named Animal Care and Welfare Officer NACWO

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The IAT is almost like your backbone they provide all the basic stuff you need to pursue a career in this industry It s not a huge pressure to do the qualifications because the course is online and you are able to set aside time during work hours to complete it The bulk of the assignments refer back to your own experiences at work and will help you become a better technician A lot of people worry about the welfare of laboratory animals as a NACWO can you tell us what is being done to improve their lives Imaging modalities such as IVIS In Vivo Imaging Systems that include bioluminescence and fluorescence CT Computed tomography MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging Ultrasound SPECT Single photon emission computed tomography and PET Positron emission tomography imaging are all available within our imaging facility Imaging techniques have become really common in cancer research and has completely changed how we use the animals It s something that a lot of people are now working with because the imaging advances mean that the amount of animals used has dramatically reduced Whereas before they would have had to euthanise animals at various points within a study to monitor tumour progression now you can sedate an animal do the imaging and then wake it up causing minimal stress Then you can image it again a couple of weeks later and see the progress or regression of tumours It s been a very important development for animal welfare and a great example of how the 3Rs have been implemented There are other advances that have had a big impact on animal welfare such as how blood collection is done You used to have to take a large volume of blood from each animal to test the effects of a drug but now you only need to take a small spot of blood for analysis At ICR all our animals are housed in IVC Individually Ventilated Cages and automated water is provided through a RO Reverse Osmosis system This system is managed through a Pulse software programme and flow sensors attached to each cage rack if there are any problems the alarm will go off and email everyone in the unit We ve got a special app that connects to our air handling units via Bluetooth and tells us how many air changes occur within an hour the temperature and humidity are monitored on it as well I do think that the animals here get looked after better than some people s pets do Our animals are given the best care possible whilst they are with us People should be far more concerned about bad pet ownership than laboratory animal welfare What advice would you give to someone starting out as a technician Just enjoy it it might seem a little mundane at times but it is a very rewarding job You can make a really good career out of it and there is a lot more to being an animal technician than people probably think at first They might think it s just the case of making sure the animals are okay but it s more than that We assist with lots of the procedures and record all of the data via our animal database You get to work alongside researchers and other people that have similar interests to you For me it s a really nice environment it sounds weird because compared to most animal care it is very clinical it seems like a strange combination but it s a nice combination Thank you Mark for giving us such a detailed insight into the life of a senior technician We wish you all the best