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Callum Interview

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WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A QUALIFIED TECHNICIAN We spoke to Callum a qualified animal technician to find out Hi Callum Tell us about your job I m an animal technician at the University of Leicester and I ve had this job for about 2 and a half years I was originally a temporary technician with S3 Science that was only meant to be for a week but turned into a month then three months and eventually a full time job How did you find out about animal technology I saw an advert online This was the first animal job I had seen going and I was so desperate for it even though I had no idea what I was getting myself into I d never seen a facility before I didn t know anything about barriers or different strains of mice or anything like that Of course I knew it all went on but I didn t know to what extent When I actually got here it was all just really new to me You get cleaned from top to bottom and you re a completely different person by the time you get into the unit We ve had people come round before and every single time they are surprised that you have to put on scrubs and wash your hands up to your shoulders People don t realise how controlled it is but it is important and once you ve been doing it for a few months it becomes second nature So what is a day at work like for you It is a bit hectic right now because the research that is happening is quite procedure heavy I will start my day health checking about 80 mice that have prions disease a neurological illness You have to make sure they are still showing natural behaviours and aren t too unwell Some of the mice are part of behaviour studies these also need to be checked first thing in the morning After that I join everyone else doing their jobs including counting litters cleaning out the cages topping up the food and changing the water bottles So that s it I m mostly making sure all the animals are healthy and fit for the researchers to use What do you love most about your job Oh definitely the animals It s strange because it s mostly mice we work with and you wouldn t have thought that a mouse could have personality But out of the thousands of mice I see every single one is different and I think they are just a pleasure to work with Was there anything that surprised you about your job I didn t know how important it is to make sure everything is clean and that you are wearing the correct Personal Protective Equipment PPE before going in As ours is a barrier unit you have to change into completely different clothes when you enter Can you tell us about a particularly rewarding moment in your job I ve had my name on a couple of research papers specifically one study where they were looking at metabolic rates of mice in relation to their diet It was published at an NC3Rs conference because of the refinement methods that were used What is the hardest part of your job The animals that I check every morning that have neurological diseases to get the data means allowing the animals to reach advanced stages of the disease Seeing the mice suffering from the disease can be really hard to cope with

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It was really nice seeing my name on something that would hopefully make a difference somewhere even if it was just helping someone else s research It s not often that it happens but they asked us if they could put our names on the end of the paper and I said absolutely Can you see yourself progressing further with animal technology Oh I definitely want to go further I just love learning new things I would love to be a NACWO or a unit manger in ten years time I definitely want to do the same kind of job just on a bigger scale where I know more about the work and the animals How has the IAT helped you I went to congress this year and it was the first year I ve ever been it was absolutely fantastic I went on so many talks and learned so many things a lot of the research I had read online but I got to watch the speakers talk about it and have conversations with them afterwards It was great to get an idea on the kind of work they re doing Also getting to talk to the suppliers about the different things they do that was really useful One thing that I was really grateful for was the same researcher who put me on the paper she s trying to develop a new type of cage for a specific kind of study and wanted my input on it So while I was at congress I spoke to a couple of the suppliers to get ideas Afterwards I helped put her in touch with some designers and now she s getting the new cage designed Have you taken any of the IAT qualifications I ve got my level 2 and will be signing up for level 3 soon I like that it s up to you how long you take to complete it some people here have taken years but others are trying to beat their records and complete it in 9 months Did you have any qualms about animal research before you began your job Well when I was really little I heard all the horror stories what we now call propaganda You only hear about the worst of the worst I remember having a couple of talks with teachers even in secondary school I remember one of my teachers saying but what if it was one of your family members getting ill and I thought yeah actually that s a good point Then my lecturer at university told me that two of his former students had gone on to work in animal technology and they absolutely love it So I ve been pretty on board with it since then What advice would you give to someone starting out as a technician I would definitely say as hard as it gets even though you may have really bad days just stick it out A lot of our new staff start here and will go into cage washing for the first 6 months before they even get to touch an animal But then further down the line you will get the better jobs you get more training and you get to do more exciting things Even if you have a bad day it s usually followed by a good one At the end of it all you re making a massive difference to the research and the animals it all adds up in the end Whether you get to see the end result or not it all pays off Thank you Callum for sharing your experiences of animal technology with us we wish you all the best in your career