What’s your current role at the Crick?
I’m a research officer in the biological research facility, working on husbandry, care and welfare of the animals. An important part of my job is making sure that everything’s up to scratch and that all our records, and paperwork such as project licences and programs of work are adhered to, and are all in order.
What were you doing before you started working at the Crick?
Originally I studied animal science and management, and then started working as a veterinary nurse. I went a different route for a while and started working in construction, but I eventually came back to what I’m really interested in – working with animals – and even took a pay cut to do it. In animal research, it’s normally mice and that’s it. The chance to work with something a bit more unusual like opossums really appealed to me.
I worked at one of the Crick’s legacy sites before I worked here. I was actually involved in transporting the opossums from Mill Hill in north London to the new site at the Crick – we had about a hundred opossums in the specially-designed van and it took an enormous amount of planning to make sure that everything ran smoothly!
We had four opossums that we didn’t have space to look after at the Crick, so we rehomed them at Nescot College. Students on their animal care course are able to look after them and observe them. I’ve been in to the college to give talks to students and I advise on new courses and qualifications that the college is running, to make sure that graduates leave with the skills they need to work in a modern biological research facility.
As opossums are only used in one research group’s work at the Crick, we work with them really closely. We know what they’re doing, they know what we’re doing and it’s very collaborative. I think it’s really important for people in my team to know the context of their work and why we’re using these animals. It’s different from just doing something because you have to or because you’ve been told to – you care about the end result.
What are you proudest of?
We’ve really put a lot of work into refining the breeding process with the opossums. We’re one of the only colonies in northern Europe so we have to be very precise in order to get the genetic diversity that we need to keep the opossums healthy.