Talent in Diversity: Black History Month 2022 Part 2

We’re celebrating Black History Month 2022 with PRISM, the Crick’s race equity network, by highlighting the diversity of talent we have here at Crick. Throughout October, we’re sharing interviews highlighting our Crick colleagues and the work they do. Take a look at Part 1.


Aaron Yarde, payroll manager

Profile image of Aaron Yarde at the Crick

My name is Aaron Yarde and I’m a payroll manager here at the Crick as part of the Human Resources team. 

What does your work entail?

I am responsible for running the Crick’s payroll, ensuring that employees are paid on time and accurately. My work has an impact on every single employee at the Crick, so I need to work quickly and closely with others to resolve any issues that may arise.

I got into payroll because I like the logic of numbers – they are black and white and very few things are in this world. Also, over the years, I have been helping many people to better understand how the UK tax system works, navigate their way through it and get the most out of it. This has always helped to make the work more rewarding.

How do you feel that your background benefits your work?

I am originally from St Lucia, an island in the Caribbean and have been living in United Kingdom since 2002. My St Lucian heritage/ancestry is very mixed because indigenous Carib Indians mixed with French, British, African, and East Indian influences over the country’s history.  

Even though the population of St Lucia may appear homogenously Black, the historic mix of people and cultures has provided a basis for working and collaborating with people from a diverse range of backgrounds and ancestry.  

Working at the Crick has been a natural extension of this. My experience has enabled me to provide a better service to colleagues from a broad spectrum of ethnicities, nationalities, and cultures from across the UK, Europe, and rest of the world.

What were your motivations to study/work at the Crick?

The Francis Crick is an amazing organisation which combines medicine and industry to accomplish incredible things. I am proud to be a member of the support team that allows scientists to focus on new discoveries, while also enabling future scientists to realise their potential via our academic programme.   

Who is your Black Hero?

Thomas Sowell is one of the great social theorists of our time. In a career which spans more than a half century, he has written over forty books, covering topics from economics, history and social inequality to political theory, race, and culture. His bold and unsentimental assaults on liberal orthodoxy have endeared him to many.

His reputation comes in large part from his analyses of the motives, reasoning, and logic of intellectuals and intellectual movements. His work in this area often combines economics with psychology.

His writings, although almost exclusively for scholarly audiences, is in plain language and very readable so accessible to all. 

Mia Williams, senior laboratory research scientist

Mia Adrianna Williams

My name is Mia Williams, and I am a senior laboratory research scientist (SLRS) in Pontus Skoglund’s Ancient Genomics lab. 

What does your work entail?

As an SLRS, I maintain the smooth running of the ancient genomics lab and help carry out the experimental 'wet lab' work. This work is required for sequencing the entire genome of human and animal remains to help us understand the people and animal populations of the past.

My work involves using automated methods to extract DNA from human and animal remains and prepare the libraries for sequencing, as well as taking part in various DNA enrichment processes. This means much of my work involves the use of a liquid handling robot to allow for the preparation of hundreds of samples at a time. As a result, I am involved in all the projects within the lab including projects exploring ancient pathogens, prehistoric Britain, and ancient proteins.

How do you feel that your background benefits your work? 

I am of mixed heritage, but both my parents were born in London. It was my grandparents who immigrated from different countries: my mother’s parents came from Italy and my father’s from Jamaica. 

I have always been proud to represent both cultures and I feel like it has given me the ability to mix well in different groups. I think being part of a blended family teaches you from an early age to be respectful of different cultures and views. In addition, being of mixed heritage, I understand the privilege that I am fortunate enough to enjoy. This has taught me to shout louder for people who do not have the same privilege!

I grew up in southwest London, which is known for being hugely diverse, and at school most of my friends were from all over the world. I left the area to go to university in Reading and then to work in Cambridge, which were both very different environments to what I was used to. I like to go back, particularly to my primary school, to help young kids learn a bit about what I do. I hope I can offer them some advice on how it is to be black in STEM, particularly when you leave the London environment.

When it comes to my job specifically it means I have strong opinions when it comes to ethics. This is very important when working in genomics, especially when working with ancient remains. 

What were your motivations to study/work in STEM?

I originally wanted to be a vet because I love animals, but then when I was 15, I did a school placement at the Natural History Museum. I was shown that there are so many different fields out there and you don’t just have to be a vet to work with animals. I learned about different scientific fields such as zoology and ecology as well as molecular biology.

From this, I got more and more interested in science and just kept on exploring. I started studying zoology, then switched to biological sciences for my undergrad, and then did a Master of Research in ecology, evolution and conservation focusing on wildlife diseases before ending up in ancient genomics. Science itself is so diverse and has so many different paths, so I like having the opportunity to try out different ones and see where they go.

As it’s Black History Month, who is your Black Hero (This person doesn’t have to be in STEM)?

I am sure everyone says this but there are so many! I think I will focus on two people.

The first one is Miranda Lowe CBE, Principal Curator at the Natural History Museum, and my mentor from when I was 15. Without her I don’t know if I would have continued to pursue a career within science. She allowed me to spend my summers volunteering at the museum.

She introduced me to different people and always offered advice if I asked for it. Not only that but she was just a great role model; it really is so important to have people who you can relate to and see them succeed in life, as then you can also see yourself succeeding. It is so difficult to picture yourself in a senior position when you look up and the people there don’t look like you, sound like you or come from the same background as you.

The second is my dad. Being mixed, sometimes it can be quite hard to figure out where you fit in because sometimes you feel that you are not enough for any culture. He always made sure I knew and was proud to be Jamaican. He made sure that I spent time with all my family members and made sure I experienced all different aspects of Jamaican culture.

He has always supported me and taught me to do whatever makes me happy. It was his love for David Attenborough documentaries that first got me interested in studying animals and thus led me on this scientific path. In general he has been a massive influence in my life and is one cool guy!

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