The University of Nottingham, in conjunction with our fellow research intensive universities across the Midlands, has celebrated the work of the technicians who underpin university life with the inaugural 2015 Higher Education Technicians’ Summit on Tuesday 30 June.
The Summit recognised the achievements of technicians – the ‘unsung heroes’ of UK higher education – and was held in association with the research and innovation collaboration of the six leading Midlands universities and the Science Council.
Kelly Vere, Conference Chair, said: “The Summit is the first of its kind – celebrating the achievements, skills and expertise of university technical staff. We are thrilled to have attracted inspirational speakers and the support of a number of learned societies and organisations, all of whom are fully committed to the professional recognition of technicians in higher education and beyond."
Celebrating the talent of technicians
The talent and experience of technicians were celebrated via the inaugural Papin Prizes, which were given to individual technicians across the Midlands region who have demonstrated excellence.
Victoria Wilson, University of Nottingham, was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions as a laboratory technician. Victoria has worked with Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys
and made a pivotal contribution in the discovery of the technique now known as DNA fingerprinting. DNA fingerprinting revolutionised the way in which police investigate crime and Victoria’s contribution was recently portrayed in the recent ITV drama Code of a Killer starring David Threlfall, John Simm and Lydia Rose Brewley, who portrayed the character of Victoria.
Sir Alec, University of Leicester, said: “I cannot think of anybody more richly deserving of this recognition. Vicky was a technician with me throughout the 1980s, and not only did a fantastic job in keeping the very complicated show that was my laboratory on the road, but also contributed enormously to our research initially on gene evolution and then into and beyond the work that lead to the first DNA fingerprint.”
Victoria was not the only University of Nottingham technician to win a Papin Prize, with awards success also going to Lisa Storer for Contribution to Research, Mike Beard for Facility and Equipment Management and Val Street for Working with Business. Special Awards were also presented to Aziza Alibhai and Neil Barnes for Community and Outreach respectively.
Talks from an astronaut, a lord and a knight
The consortium attracted over 400 guests, who heard from high-profile keynote speakers including:
- Dr Helen Sharman OBE – first Briton in space, now Technical Manager at Kingston University
- Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya Kt CBE FREng FRS – Professor of Manufacturing and Chairman of the Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick, Trustee of the Institute for Public Policy Research
- Professor Sir David Greenaway, Vice-Chancellor, University of Nottingham
These distinguished speakers focussed on broader issues around technical skills and education including the importance of technical skills in driving forward innovation, and current initiatives to ensure the future provision of technical education to young people.
Dr Sharman said: “Technicians are usually the unsung heroes and heroines of university life. More than just enabling practical laboratory classes and research, technicians are the glue without which huge chunks of university life would fall apart. Properly recognising technical skills and ensuring full developmental support will ensure universities benefit fully from this wealth of resource”.
Lord Bhattacharyya said: “Technicians play a vital role in supporting STEM subjects in universities and contribute enormously to research, education and outreach activities. I am delighted to see that education and apprenticeship opportunities for technical roles have increased over recent years, and this will encourage more young people to embark on a technical career.”
Raising the profile of technicians
For more information about the work of technicians at The University of Nottingham and an interview from Professor Sir David Greenaway, watch the University’s video below entitled ‘Raising the profile of technicians – HE’s unsung heroes’.
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain’ (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Research Project of the Year’ at the THE Awards 2014. It is ranked in the world’s top one per cent of universities by the QS World University Rankings, and 8th in the UK by research power according to REF 2014.
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