As part of our goal to showcase science as a diverse and inclusive theme within the also diverse STEM umbrella term, we have a series of featured scientists. These interviews give a snapshot of those involved in science, and we’ll start with some of those involved in MicroScientists. Today, we have Hayley who works for the NHS, and is an integral part of our team.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m Hayley and I’m an Associate Practitioner in Oral Pathology and Microbiology at University Dental Hospital in Cardiff. I’ve been working across various disciplines of pathology for nearly 20 years. I started off as a Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) in Gloucester Royal Hospital in Histology, but as this was a voluntary position I eventually moved to a permanent post as an MLA but in a different area: Biochemistry. After about 3 years I moved to Cardiff and started working as a MLA in Specimen Reception. This gave me the opportunity to rotate around various departments like Blood Bank, Coagulation, and Antenatal Screening Wales. It was during my time here that I started my HNC in Biomedical Science at UWIC (now Cardiff Metropolitan University). This meant that I could start to progress in my career and I moved back to the speciality I started in, Histology, but this time as an Associate Practitioner. I’ve since moved to Oral Pathology based at the University Dental Hospital and have been here for nearly 4 years. This has opened up many opportunities for me that I may not have had I continued to work in a bigger department like the main Histology.
Quick fire questions:
Favourite colour: Silver
Favourite food: Chips
Favourite place: Anywhere with my family
Hobbies: Drawing, reading and singing really badly
Pets: Only my children. Do they count??
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Fun, enthusiastic and inquisitive
What are you currently working on/what are your scientific interests?
As I’m not research based I don’t have a project that I’m working on, however I do work in a NHS diagnostic lab so always have specimens that need to be processed in order to help diagnose, treat and monitor a patients disease. Working in Oral Pathology means that I get to see small routine biopsies from the mouth like polyps through to cancer resections which means I deal with specimens such as tongues, larynx, mandibles (jaws), maxillas and necks to check the lymph nodes. I love doing dissection (cutting up samples and staining with special dyes for evaluation) with a pathologist as this is where we really get to see what we are dealing with and I’m forever asking questions relating to anatomy, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.
Another area of science I’m really keen on is carrying out public engagement. The more I talk to the public about what I do the more I love my job. It’s great to showcase areas of science that aren’t always in the public eye and make people aware of what we are doing.
What do you like most about science/being a scientist?
The best part of my job is knowing that I make a difference to patients. Knowing I’ve done my best for the patient and strived to provide a quick, efficient and high quality service so a patient can have the best care we can provide is very humbling.
Who is your scientific inspiration?
Dr Jo Horne is an Advanced Practitioner Healthcare Scientist, which means that she is a qualified Biomedical Scientist and has taken on extra training and qualifications so she can report cases like pathologists. She’s one of a few Biomedical Scientists who have done this and is always keen to help, and advise regardless of lab speciality. I also really admire Professor Averil Mansfield. She was the first female professor of surgery and has been a pioneer in developing new procedures to prevent strokes, these procedures are still widely used today.
What keeps you going day to day?
Knowing that I impact on patient care makes me always do my best and to continue to develop and expand my skills and knowledge base.
Tell us three things you can’t live without/keep you motivated.
I don’t think you can beat a good sing along, although I do tend to do this when nobody else is in the lab. I also couldn’t do my job without my amazing colleagues and students that come into the lab because we have such a brilliant working relationship. Lastly my family, I couldn’t do what I do without them. My boys constantly encourage me with my public engagement and I just want to make them all proud of what I do and why I do it.
What are your longer-term career aspirations?
I would love to complete my Biomedical Science degree. As I’m an Associate Pratitioner I was only required to complete my HNC but I’m now at a point in my life where I feel really confident to continue with my studies.
What is the most pertinent piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out in science (e.g. new PhD student)?
PERSEVERANCE!!!!!! You will need to accept that there will be numerous fails in the practical work you carry out, you just need to turn this into a positive by learning from it. Do plenty of reading and research around the area you are working and, because of the relationship we have with the students, I would say make use of lab staff/technicians. Although we may not have a PhD we make up for it in experience and can give tips and tricks of the trade, advice and I like to think we provide a support system. Our door is always open as we appreciate that a PhD is very full on and sometimes you need that shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. Everybody is there to help you so make use of these people! We want to help in any way we can!
What career/general advice would you give to someone in school thinking of studying in STEM?
Research your area of study. For instance to become a HCPC registered Biomedical Scientist you need to do an IBMS accredited degree which not all biomedical science degrees are. Sometimes work experience can work in your favour as well.
I didn’t enjoy science at school and was the person who got the worst grades in the school year, so I’m the last person who thought I’d end up working in a lab but I love it. I don’t think science is all about getting A* at A level, getting 10/10 in tests and having the highest IQ, for me science is all about wanting to find out the answers to questions.
Any other thoughts or comments?
If you are naturally curious and always want to know who, why, how, or what and ask these questions then I think you are already a scientist, you just need to figure out what type of scientist you are!