I am a Senior Analyst and Quality Lead in the LC Section at RPS Bedford. I have moved up from being an Analyst in the GC Section, through Senior Analyst in Crop work and now help leading the LC Section as a whole.
You know far more than you think you know! We start off in our careers so timid, cautious and worried (well I did anyway). After having a career break, I thought I had lost all my knowledge and confidence. But my message to myself and others would be – just go for it, you know it and you can do it!
After completed my undergraduate in Biomedical Science at Sheffield University, I took the MSc Forensic Science course at King’s College London. I did a placement at St Georges University looking at dance scene drugs, which quickly moved into full research and papers published on the new designer dance drugs that swept through the drug scene in the early 2000’s. I secured a full time position as a forensic toxicologist at St Georges, and worked on post mortem cases and drug related deaths.
After having a career break to start a family (during which I maintained my position as Secretary of the London Toxicology Group, to keep my knowledge up), I returned to the analytical industry in a more local job to my home, at RPS. Although this was a new branch of analytical chemistry for me, I quickly realised that many aspects were the same and my skills were very transferable.
My career highlight was very much drug testing on the front line at Glastonbury music festival! I worked closely with the Avon and Somerset Police force to purchase products on site that were thought to be causing harm. These were tested onsite and monitored. I enjoyed the music too!
I also enjoyed all the opportunities I had in public speaking and teaching, attending international conferences and building up a wide network of colleagues. A highlight of this was organising the TIAFT International conference in Birmingham in 2019 – a huge achievement that I am very proud to be a part of.
From human toxicology to environmental analysis, I have come to realise that they are both as important as each other. Our environmental analysis work at RPS has opened my eyes to the true extent of chemicals in the environment, and how contamination has built up over such a short time. Human toxicology was interesting, but it only demonstrated what humans could do to themselves and each other. Environmental toxicology is on a different, and far more worrying scale.
Hopefully, through the monitoring of these environmental contaminates, we can bring them to the attention of a wider audience through governing bodies, and things can be changed for the future. That’s what I hope our legacy is.
Join societies and groups, be an active member and volunteer to do more! It is a great way (the only way) to meet others in your field outside of your work place and find out what to do next. Build up a network of different people and go out of your comfort zone!
In my working life, I have seen a huge change in women’s equality in the work place. It certainly is more ‘normal’ now to see women in higher paid jobs and juggling family life and expectations. We have a responsibility to ourselves to ‘break the bias’, to keep trying and further yourself despite what you may encounter.
However, having had a career break to bring up my children, I do feel this is an area that could be more open and more inclusive. Many women still feel they can’t return, or its too hard to return – and it still is very hard in reality. The constant struggle to get to nursery on time, whilst balancing your work load and other peoples expectations of you.
I am fortunate that I don’t feel I have ever suffered knowingly from such inequality, in any part of my career. RPS have been extremely accommodating in my return to work and flexibility in accepting reduced or different hours. I have also been given lots of opportunities to increase my position and responsibilities which I have enjoyed. Prior to this, in forensic toxicology I don’t feel I was held back or looked down on, even when I was a young toxicologist. I have always been part of a strong team which always included women, inside and outside of my work place. Its all I’ve ever known, and have come to expect.
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