Newsletter #4 Autumn 2016

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IST Newsletter Autumn 2016

Welcome to the fourth edition of the IST e-newsletter. The newsletter will appear quarterly and will be emailed out via Mailchimp from, to ensure that you receive your e-newsletter please add this address to your contacts list.


President's Blog - Stardate 10.2016

I hope you had a great summer, the season for scientific social events it seems. It started for me with a gathering of astronauts in London for the annual meeting of the Association of Space Explorers Europe. Aligning with British Interplanetary Society's Russia China Forum this year, we celebrated a new British astronaut and I looked forward to Tim Peake's landing. While preparing the outreach session 25 years after I first did something like this after my spaceflight, it became clear that while there have been numerous scientific discoveries and technological leaps, the basic messages of the importance of science and how interesting it can be are still the messages we want to convey today. But a key change over the years has been how we work. Some of the sessions at the IST's Conference in Manchester in September addressed the organisational and managerial issues facing technicians and how we can get involved to ensure we have the opportunities to develop those oft-talked of soft skills as well as learning about new instrumentation and career progression. There was a record number of attendees at the Conference, which was organised superbly by Wendy, Ian and the Conference Team. Thanks to all involved. The IST will build on comments and suggestions received but please do send the team any other thoughts you have for the future conferences, whether or not you came this year.

Conferences aside, next summer we should have a clearer idea of how Brexit will affect our profession. You may already have seen price rises of imported goods and overseas training. Possible tighter immigration controls may be a concern. If you think technicians are being impacted in a way that is not recognised elsewhere, do let us know!  However, resilience is a technician's middle name and technical open-mindedness and logical pragmatism will serve us well over the coming months. Keep on delivering!

Chairman's Blog

The IST Conference in Manchester was a resounding success and it was great to see so many of you there. Our President, Helen Sharman, and I had a full day and were able to chat to many members employed in all sectors. Helen's talk was 'out of this world' and well received by the conference delegates and it was great to be able to introduce Helen to so many of you afterwards. Professor Malcolm Press also gave us a very unique insight into his thoughts on technicians and their professional support wearing his vice chancellors hat. For those of you who were unable to join us then most of the presentations and workshops are now available on the IST website. Thank you also for your evaluation and feedback on the conference, it is so useful to have, to enable us to plan to make next years conference bigger and better. The IST Executive and the Conference working group are meeting in November and high on our agenda is your feedback, as we begin planning for next year's conference. Please let us know if you have any further ideas or suggestions for workshops, or if you would like to deliver a workshop. We are also on the look out for new sponsors and suppliers to partner with us at the next event. So if you have any contacts or a particularly good relationship with a supplier then please mention the IST conference to them and ask them to get in touch. We would like to keep the cost down for our members to attend the conference and sponsorship goes a long way to achieve this. 

Talking to many of you it was quite apparent that no matter which sector you work in, the issues are all the same. Job security, career progression, training and development opportunities, Professional Registration and CPD. Areas the IST are working to address by giving workshops and presentations on these subjects to both employers and employees and raising the profile of the technical community and our members nationally and locally.

Since the last newsletter the IST has been working with colleagues to address the shortage of representation and support for technicians working in Arts and Media across the sectors. HEaTED and the IST are also joining forces to represent this group in the HE sector. So watch this space for more announcements in the coming weeks.

The IST is also playing a big role in the Gatsby National “Technicians Make It Happen” project that is highlighting the various roles, skills and contributions our technicians make to UK PLC at large. Whether it is working in the National Laboratory Service of the Environment Agency or in an Imaging Facility in the HE sector, the technical community definitely make it happen!!!

Finally, have you seen this man?

Yes John Dwyer! He is our Partnership/IST Champions Coordinator. So you better watch out for him as he is on a mission. Due to the continued interest in the IST and it’s mission in supporting and continually raising the profile of the “Technician” and the community at large; he is seeking more IST Champions. So with winter coming (no not Game of Thrones!) don't be bored or turn into a couch potato. Come and join the team of enthusiastic technicians and specialists who freely give their time in supporting “their” professional body. Represent the IST in your company or institution. Join the ever-growing team of Champions. Email John today at

IST Technical Conference 2016

Over 200 people attended the IST Technical Conference 2016, which took place at the Manchester Conference Centre on the 15th of September. The one day technical conference incorporated workshops and presentations given by a range of speakers on topics of interest to the technical community.

The conference kicked off with the first keynote speech by Professor Malcolm Press who talked about technicians of the 21st century and stressed the importance of the technical community to HE and the need for more recognition.

There was also a keynote speech by IST President Helen Sharman, who presented to a packed auditorium and spoke about her out of this world travels as a space technician.

The workshops were facilitated by a range of organisations and people, from the Environment Agency to university technicians and industry all doing fascinating talks on everything from 3D printing to laboratory awareness, as well as careers and CPD.  A link to the full programme and presentations from the workshops can be found on our website, along with photos from the conference. 

Terry Croft, IST chairman presented the awards for the conference which included; Outstanding Trainee, which went to Llywelyn Lee from the University of Sheffield and the Best Conference Poster Award went to Latif Liaque. The Social Media Award, #ISTconference2016, went to Jess Mehers from Lancashire University Chemistry department.

"I would definitely recommend this conference to my colleagues, each year it goes from strength to strength."


"I would highly recommend attendance at this type of event as it was very well organised and supported - cannot fault in any way. May well attend next year with my own stand." 

Conference delegate Jamie Rhys McFarlane Webster wrote this review of Workshop 12: Proactively manage your personal development  for career benefit 

A well-attended, vibrant and participatory workshop was held in the afternoon by Dr Katherine Forsey and Sue Churm from HEaTED focusing on how to utilise personal development activities and networks to proactively manage your technical career.

Katherine and Sue asked the delegates to reflect on what development activities they had undertaken in the last year and what activities they were currently undertaking. These reflections were then posted up and from the wide variety of posts demonstrated that IST members were fully engaged in their professional development.

The delegates were then asked what type of activities they would undertake in the future and post them up for discussion. Again there were a wide variety of activities from health and safety and computer courses to professional registration. Katherine and Sue then discussed how HEaTED can help with these activities by hosting courses.

In looking at the scope and variety of development opportunities in which the delegates were participating and wished to undertake, Katherine and Sue discussed the benefits of taking an active part in CPD  not only to the individual but also the added benefit to organisations to which they belong. There was a discussion on the barriers to development and how to overcome them especially around the time off for attendance.

Katherine and Sue provided examples of where HEaTED was able to arrange courses and network events at various venues within different regions and if you wished to host an event they could bring an event to your organisation.

The second half of the workshop focused on future trends and keeping technical skills and capabilities relevant. In having a proactive engaged technical workforce concentrating on developing their knowledge was creating skilled and agile professionals for the workplace of tomorrow. Katherine and Sue pointed out several current initiatives that are to enhance the future of technical careers such as the Technical Development and Modernisation project, the Apprenticeship levy and the Gatsby foundations Technicians Make It Happen campaign.

They went on to discuss with the delegates that UK plc will be requiring more technicians so that an individual becoming committed to their own development will see an increase in future career opportunities. Katherine and Sue rounded off the workshop with a discussion about the formulation of action plans and utilising the HEaTED Professional Development Route Map and how this can help the personal development of all technical staff.

With many thanks to all of our conference sponsors, including our key sponsor VWR. 


Triple Red


Thermo Scientific



Scientific Laboratory Supplies



HEaTED Regional Events

UK Regions Map
HEaTED put on free networking events in regions all over the UK, as well as paid for training courses, below are date for the next round of free networking events:

November 7th: Scotland Network Event, University of St Andrews
November 8th: East Midlands Network Event, De Montfort University 
November 16th: East of England Network Event, University of Hertfordshire
November 17th: West Midlands Network Event, Keele University 
December 6th: North East Network Event, Northumbria University
February 16th, 2017: London and South East Network Event, University of Reading
July 12th, 2017: East of England Network Event, University of Cranfield

IST’s new initiative championing arts and media technicians

The IST is committed to developing the professional profile of our arts and media-based technicians, specialists and managerial staff and we are now moving towards developing an Arts Register so that technicians working in the arts will be able to gain professional registration.
In collaboration with our partners at HEaTED, we will support technicians from the arts to become professionally recognised so that they can prove competency and skills, just like we do currently for technicians from the science and technology sectors.
Arts technicians can already apply for the Registered Practitioners award with the IST, which is an increasingly recognised measure of professional competence, but professional registration will be one step further. 
IST Chairman, Terry Croft, has said “We have been working for sometime to find the right partner to not only help us celebrate the great work that arts and media technicians do for this sector but also to help develop an appropriate register and look forward to working with HEaTED. We are already able to offer the IST’s Registered Practitioners award applicable to this group of professional technicians and look forward to making the first presentations in due course.
The IST will promote this specialist group of technicians through our web site, Journal, eNewsletter and other publications. The Arts and Media Board is to have representatives from the technicians working in this field as well as from HEaTED. I look forward to working with this group and supporting them to achieve the recognition they truly deserve.”

Dr Katherine Forsey, Membership and Networks Manager for HEaTED said “Professional registration is an important route through which technical staff can have their skills and expertise publically acknowledged and those in arts based disciplines must be given the same access to registration opportunities. HEaTED are delighted that the IST has stepped forward to become the professional registration awarding body that recognises arts technicians.
HEaTED will continue to provide networking and professional development opportunities for those working in the arts through our National Network of Arts Technicians (NNATS). We look forward to supporting the IST as they move towards developing an Arts register and look forward to celebrating the first Registered Arts Technicians when they are awarded.”
 HEaTED delivers professional development for the technical workforce across the UK.

CPD -The Creative Approach

Dr Lisa Hollands, RSci, writes for the Science Council on CPD, in a blog that originally appeared on the Science Council website.

Four years ago a job as a teaching technician came up in my old university department – a fantastic opportunity which combined my love of materials science with a passion for teaching and developing people. The following year I looked into professional registration as a way of getting recognition for the skills I had and was successful in gaining Registered Scientist status. In 2014, I was promoted to become a senior technician supporting high temperature materials processing and was promoted again in 2015 to the team leader position. I am now looking towards gaining chartered status within the next few years.
I believe that my passion for personal development and learning about a wide range of topics has helped me to get to where I am now and last year I was highly commended for a Science Council CPD Award.


How I approach my CPD

Initially, I decided to take a critical look at the different areas that go into making my job and also thought about my future career aspirations to work out where I needed extra skills and knowledge for advancement.  I often found that I had to think outside the box about where I could get this development from as funding is not always easy to come by.  I have a personal love for learning new things and working as a technician in a busy University department, supporting teaching and research, means that I need to learn new things every day as no two days are ever the same.
Engaging in CPD can be really simple if you look for the opportunities out there, but sometimes they are not obvious…

Online courses

The first thing that people seem to think about when looking at their development is what courses could they go on, and sometimes it is the best or only way of getting the knowledge that you need – but courses cost money. At work I am really careful about which courses I ask to go on and make sure that there is a really good business case for it. So far I have not had a request rejected – but what if I can’t get the money to go? What else could I try?
Well actually there are courses available in all sorts of topics from universities around the world that don’t cost a penny covering things like ‘people management’ or ‘how to be succeed in interviews’ through to more technical topics such as programming courses, maths, teaching skills, photography etc. – the sky is the limit.
I found I was doing a lot of work with dentists and wanted to know a little bit more about what they do so I could support their work better as my knowledge of dentistry was limited – I found a MOOC (Massive Open On­line Course) where I learned all about it with thousands of other interested people… and it does not end there.

Books, journals and YouTube

Reading around subjects in books, journals and on the internet or talking to experts has given me a greater breadth and depth of knowledge in many areas related to my work. I also found that YouTube has a wealth of videos which can be a useful way of finding out how to do that new thing – I learned how to crochet using YouTube but have also learned about flame working glass and sand casting metals which is more useful for my job.

Involvement in committees and projects

Being involved in committees and projects has developed and expanded more of my softer skills such as improving my organisational skills, project managing and communicating with people from outside the area that I work.
I am now on the steering committee of a very successful project comprising of a group of technicians within my university looking at offering development opportunities for university technical staff (TechNet); this project has now started to include other institutions.
Last year I was even involved in developing and delivering a session on developing your career for technical staff which was a new experience for me. Mentoring or work shadowing people within my organisation has also given me a great insight in to new ways of working and these are just some of the other avenues that I have found most useful. Involvement in all these things is CPD – even writing this blog is.
Development opportunities are all around you if you know where to look… and most of them are free which is an added bonus.
Find out more about the Science Council’s CPD requirements for registered scientists and technicians.

We need your help!

Bolton College are looking for companies who are able to support our applied science students with work experience placements.  A work placement is an important part of all our student’s college courses, as it helps them to gain an insight into the industry and shows them the different career paths available to them once they finish their course. 
If you are able to support one of our students with an unpaid placement or would like more information then please contact Andrew Hughes on: 01204 482954  or 

IST supports the Technicians Make It Happen campaign

The IST are supporting Gatsby's Technicians Make It Happen campaign and IST Chair Terry Croft had this to say:
Today’s technicians are a vital part of any business or industry. The majority of sectors would come to  a standstill if it wasn’t for the wide variety of skills and expertise of our professional technicians; it is therefore essential that we attract today the technicians of tomorrow. As the IST is the professional body for technicians, we are delighted to be fully supporting the technical community and this campaign promoting technicians that really do make it happen! 

- Terry Croft MBE, FIScT, Chair and CEO of the Institute of Science and Technology.



Photo Competition

Take part in the Technicians Make It Happen campaign by entering their photo competition. Simply find something that technicians have helped to create - be as imaginative as you can - snap a photo with 'Technicians Make It Happen' somewhere in the photo, and post it on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #TechniciansMakeItHappen. 

A winner will be announced each month with a prize of £25 Amazon Vouchers and then an ultimate winner at the end of the competition in April 2017 who will win £1000 and career guidance from an industry expert. 

For more information on the competition and the campaign visit the Technicians Make It Happen website.

Calling all technicians

Technicians Make it Happen seeks to challenge outdated notions of who our nation’s technicians are and what they do. But we need your help.
As part of a UK-wide campaign Technicians Make it Happen is appearing at public STEM and skills events to engage young people, parents, teachers and employers with the crucial role technicians play across society. We need technicians to join our stand at these events to talk about the work you do. Develop your own communication skills, help inspire the next generation of technicians and hopefully have an enjoyable day.
We will cover travel and meal expenses and you will have time to explore the wider exhibition. To volunteer please email
The upcoming events are:

Skills London              9-10 December 2016 - Excel London
What Career Live?       3-4 March 2017 - NEC Birmingham
But more events are being booked so we need your help.
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Science Council News and Events

The Science Council have reviewed the most recent reports on technical education, starting with the ‘Report of the Independent Panel on Technical Education’, with the panel chaired by Lord Sainsbury. The Government’s response in the form of the white paper ‘Post 16 Skills Plan’ was to accept all the recommendations put forward in the Sainsbury Report.

Following the Science Council’s Summit on the Science Profession Post Brexit, keep an eye out for the Science Council's report on Brexit. This report will set out recommendations from science professionals to influence Brexit on behalf of UK science, along with protecting the Professional Qualifications Directive.

On the 15th of September, the Science Council announced that University of Sheffield Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett would be their new president.

S Labs Conference

Over 200 people attended the S Labs conference on ‘Labs of the Future: Excellence in laboratory design, operation and support’. The conference, which took place at the University of Nottingham on the 21st of September, had a packed schedule for delegates. There were many workshops to chose from and the option of going on a tour of the GSK Carbon-neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry. There were also many exhibitors from a range of companies dealing in installations and improvements to labs, all aimed at ensuring more sustainable laboratories.

The day kicked off with keynote speeches from Chris Jagger, Chief Estates and Facilities Officer at the University of Nottingham, Peter Licence, Professor of Chemistry and Director of the GSK Laboratory for sustainable chemistry and IST Chairman and TDM Director Terry Croft. Peter spoke about the GSK Carbon-Neutral Laboratory and the need to inspire the next generation of scientists to practice sustainable science. Our own Terry Croft introduced the TDM project and spoke about the need for a sustainable supply of technicians in HE labs. You can read the speakers bios here.

Delegates could then choose from an array of workshops on topics given by speakers from many different universities and companies, giving their advice and sharing stories of what's worked when making their own labs sustainable. Delegates heard from the Universities of Liverpool, Nottingham, Birmingham, Imperial and Sheffield. While companies discussed products and practices aimed at making science labs more sustainable. The full programme can be accessed here and the presentations are available on the S labs Dropbox. Everyone was in agreement that it was a very useful and thought provoking day.

IST at Exeter 

The IST were at the University of Exeter Technical Services Conference on the 6th of July. IST chairman Terry Croft did a presentation with James Trout from the Environment Agency on professional development. 

University of Leeds
Technically Speaking: a newsletter for technicians, by technicians

The Technicians’ Network at the University of Leeds decided that technicians needed a mouthpiece. We found that creating a shared space that technicians can feel is their own can be difficult. Pressures on time and space on campus make this difficult; and so, we decided to create a space online. By starting our newsletter, Technically Speaking, we have a place where technicians can read and write articles relevant to them.

The first issue of Technically Speaking (February 2016)

Our first issue came out in February 2016. Since then, in all, we have produced 3 issues with 20 articles from 17 contributors and we still have our November 2016 issue to go. Our aim is to promote technicians within the University, to bring our talent, ideas and issues to the attention of each other but also the University at large. With over 450 technicians at the University of Leeds we wanted the articles in each issue to be relevant and useful to readers whatever their background.
We have had articles on subjects as diverse as Mindfulness and needle stick injuries. We have championed prize winners and technicians giving their free time for good causes. We have promoted training opportunities and given a voice to not just science technicians but other technicians as well. We try, where possible, to ensure technicians write the articles but where we think someone with specific knowledge would be useful we ask them. So when we heard about forthcoming changes to the promotions policy we asked someone from HR to write a short piece.

Network of technicians across the main campus

As editor I can say that it is not always easy finding people to write for the newsletter. Technicians are busy people and many are not confident writers. I am eternally grateful to those who have found the time—and the bravery—to give it a go and help fill each issue with their ideas and stories about their work and their lives.
We have had some great feedback from the technicians about the newsletter and I am very glad we made the effort get it up and running. I hope we can, not only keep it running, but also expand our interactions. For example, we are thinking about starting an online forum for technicians to discuss the newsletter and any other ideas. We would also like to use the newsletter as a medium to survey our technicians to find out what the Technicians’ Network can do for them. But, for now, we hope that Technically Speaking will continue to provide a platform where we can share our ideas, worries and our talents with the technical community and the whole University staff.

By Andy Connelly (October 2016)

Technically Speaking: Grow your own. . .rocket science!

This article was kindly supplied by the University of Leeds technicians newsletter, Technically Speaking, and first appeared on their website on the 28th of July 2016. 

Last year I saw an advert for a project called ‘Rocket Science’ and asked my local junior school if they were interested in being involved.
The project is a collaboration between the Royal Horticultural Society and the UK Space Agency involving 8500 schools and children’s groups.
In September, 2kg of rocket seeds were sent up to the International Space Station for six-months. Once back on Earth the seeds were packaged alongside similar seed that had remained on Earth into red and blue packets. Rocket seeds (as in the lettuce!).
The aim of the project is to look at whether seeds stored in space grow any differently to those stored on Earth, allowing the children to think about sustaining life on long-term space missions. As a research technician working in the Plant Centre within the Faculty of Biological Sciences (FBS), I was able to offer the children advice and support on how to grow and maintain the plants, and also to talk about the importance of treating all of the trays equally, random sampling, and accuracy of measurements.
We started in assembly with an exciting message from ‘rocket-man’ Tim Peake who showed us the seeds in space. Then we discussed why we might need to grow plants in space and what resources other than food could be provided by plants, such as oil, fabrics and medicines. Each year group then took responsibility for planting a tray of red and a tray of blue seed.
The children made predictions about what they thought would happen to seeds stored in micro-gravity with increased radiation. It was fascinating to hear some of their ideas finding out how they could link knowledge from different areas. One of the predictions was that the seeds would expand in space, because an astronaut’s spine elongates in reduced gravity, and therefore the plants would grow taller.
This was countered by the idea that the seeds might elongate in space, but the pull of the earth’s gravitational field would be felt more strongly when they returned so the plants would be smaller. As the children put forward their ideas, I was able to relate them to my knowledge of gravitropism and had how plants respond to stress. Unlike most experiments carried out in schools, we had no idea what the result would be, so there was a buzz of excitement to see what would happen.
Each year group looked after the plants for a week at a time, watering, rotating the trays, and taking any measurements required. They measured various parameters including: percentage germination rates, height of tallest plants in each tray, and average number of leaves per plant.
Their observations found very little difference between the two sets of seeds. However, the results are being added to a national database with 8500 other sets of results. So now the children and I are waiting impatiently for the final results. Are our results representative? We’ll have to wait and see…

By Jennie Hibbard

Jennie would like to thank her PI, Professor Urwin, for allowing her to go into school to help with some of the measurements. She also wants to thank the lab for providing the resources required for the project and Daria Pastok for kindly providing her with some plants.
Many technicians take part in similar public engagement activities. In FBS lots of technicians are involved in Discovery Zone, which takes place in March for schoolchildren aged 8-14, or other activities which are part of Leeds Festival of Science. Others are involved in events such as the Great Yorkshire Show, or the international Fascination of Plants Day. If you want to get involved in any projects contact for science-related, or for non-science

To read more articles in Technically Speaking, visit their website

Launch of UEA Technicians Network


The inaugural meeting of the UEA Technicians forum was held on September 30th and was introduced by Amanda Giles the Head of the Centre for Staff Education and Development. Guest speaker, Natalie Kennerley gave us an overview of Sheffield Technet - how it started, the challenges faced along the way and the vision for the future.
 Helen Charlwood also gave a short presentation introducing HEaTED and what it can offer to UEA technicians.
 The meeting was well attended, with around 40 technicians from a variety of disciplines across campus with East Anglian Film Archive technicians having to travel from their base at County Hall.
Natalie had a dual role on the day and, having given us an extremely interesting talk on TechNet, stepped into an IST role to present Liz Rix with her Chartered Scientist Certificate. Liz is the first of a pilot group to achieve professional registration, with 9 others having recently submitted or about to submit their applications.
 Liz along with Steve Oldfield and Judith Mayne closed the meeting by giving an overview of the hopes and aims for the new UEA forum and asked for feedback from those attending. There was also a call for volunteers from technical groups outside of Science to come forward to help with the running of the network by providing information on areas of concern to those working in different disciplines. The meeting was well received and the next meeting is planned for early in the New Year when the focus will be on Professional registration.

To see photos of the event and presentations from the speakers, head over to the UEA Technicians Forum website.
If you would like to promote a technical community in your area then please get in touch, we would like to hear from you!

Call for Articles

Do you have any articles that you feel would be of interest to the technical community? Or do you need to promote a relevant article or event? We are looking for articles to include in the next IST Newsletter, so if you do have anything then please get in touch.

Please contact us at
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