Specialist Advisor Spotlight - Laurence Dawkins-Hall

November 2022

NTDC Specialist Advisors are our group of colleagues who support the NTDC by offering their advice, guidance and expertise in specialist areas.

The NTDC spoke with Laurence Dawkins-Hall, NTDC Specialist Advisor to hear more about him and his career. 

Laurence is a Technician at the University of Leicester, a Professional Registration Mentor at the Science Council, IST and RSB. He is also a Consultant and End Point Assessor (EPA) at Marshall Assessment.

What is/are your current role/s? Career history?

I currently work as a Biomedical sciences teaching technician at the University of Leicester. In addition, I hold extra-curricular roles in the context of Science Council Professional Registration (as an Applicant support mentor) and a similar role with the IST in my capacity as Assistant Registrar and Principal registration mentor. In addition, I am now the Registration assessor training lead for the Royal Society of Biology. I hold a Chartered Scientist award (CSci) as well as a Chartered Biologist award (CBiol) and perform end point assessments post submission, in addition to mentoring, leading up to Professional Registration submissions. These activities, over a five year period, have resulted in the award of a technical Fellowship with the IST (FIScT) and a Royal Society Fellowship with the RSB (FRSB)

Before this current aspect of my career commenced 5 years ago, I was involved in Biomedical research as a technician, with an international CV. Experimental science with publications; training and teaching of students were integral to these varying postings in Europe, the USA and the UK.     

How would you describe your specialisms in the capacity of a Specialist Advisor?

My specialism with the NTDC is for support of STEM technicians in the context of applying for Science Council Professional registration registers, viz. RSciTech, RSci and Csci. This involves presentations on Professional Registration on behalf of the NTDC, in person and on line, as well as individual tuition for registration applicants who work for partner affiliate bodies of the NTDC

Why did you decide to join the NTDC team as a Specialist Advisor?

I elected to become as Specialist advisor for NTDC in the arena of Professional Registration and STEM, in order to reinforce and expand analogous and existing positions I hold with the IST and Science Council

What do you enjoy about being part of the wider NTDC team?

There are many things I enjoy. Perhaps the things I most enjoy, however, is meeting with fellow SA advisors and wider technicians at NTDC meetings and getting to hear about current challenges and achievements associated with the technical community, across the UK as a whole

What has been your highlight of your time within the wider NTDC team?

Presenting in person at Technical conferences in which NTDC participates; A blessing of post COVID “freedom” !

Who/what inspires you?

Many people inspire me. In the first instance, early scientific communicators like Carl Sagan, David Attenborough and the brilliant yet popular Physicist and Nobel Laureate, Richard Feynmann. My old Science School teachers like Miss Kelly, Miss Dawson and Mr Hemmingway whom, retrospectively, I look back on with awe and admiration. In general however and omnipresent: my wife!

What advice do you have for someone new to the industry?

Make up your mind if you are technically minded or academically minded, in terms of your active interests within the work place. If the former, seriously consider a career in industry and not a University. If the latter, remain within a University and consider seriously gaining a PhD

What changes have you seen in the sector throughout your career? (good changes preferable!)

Many changes, good and bad. In terms of positive outcomes, the outreach engagements that now occur with schools and wider society, to promote public understanding of what individuals “in white coats” actually get up to in their “arcane work places” (as they are perceived). Also, Professional conduct is now much more valued and measured than it was at the beginning of my career. Finally, contributing to climate change through eco-friendly, lab sustainable practices. This was not considered at all back in the day…

What do you see as the coming trends/challenges/opportunities in your field?

An emerging trend is recognition of technicians for what they contribute to research and teaching in their own right; and also in a support capacity. This is one aspect or aspiration of the technician commitment and effectively represents “re-inventing the wheel” as such recognition was more common place 20 + years ago than it is today. Challenges, once again being addressed in part by the technician commitment, is the progressive ageing of the national technical cohort as many older technicians leave or retire with a paucity of young people taking on technical careers and remaining in those careers later into life

Trends include the integration of biomedical sciences into main stream clinical practice, in terms of genomic data and diagnosis of disease; engineering and prosthetics and the prospect of growing organs on demand, by virtue of stem cell research, thereby circumventing the practice of cadaver donations and the complications and shortages that this engenders. There again, a concomitant challenge is the ethics of such practices and making sure the general public are on board, through constructive dialogue, outreach activity and in house education 

We need to ensure incidentally that technicians are valued and play an active role in all such endeavours!