We’ve spent a lot of time talking to researchers in the Tuesday Feature so far. It’s been fascinating. But, so far there’s been little Roberta in the labmention of those people in the background who make the research possible.

So today we chat with Roberta Oliviera, a Research Technician in the Manchester Immunology Group. She tells us a bit about her role, her inspirations, and how she got to where she is today.

Hi Roberta. Could you tell us a little bit about being a research technician? What does your day-to-day involve?

My role in the University is to provide support for other academics and students with their research.

Technicians sometimes run their own projects and report the results to the supervisor and at other times they can support to researchers running specific experiments or techniques. We also help with students and their projects.

I suppose we run the upkeep of the lab, the organisation, and the smaller functions like that.

What about the researchers you work with and the research you do? What is being studied?

Well, I work for Professor Richard Grencis in the Immunology Group in the Faculty of Life Sciences.

Professor Grencis is looking at the immune responses against the whipworm. He looks at the balance of the immune response in an individual and what dictates whether that individual is susceptible or resistant to infection.

When you look at parasitic infections and their responses, you learn a lot about the immune system. We can always apply those lessons to other things such as cancer, auto immune diseases, and allergies.

Roberta at workHow did you first get interested in science? Or in particular, this research area?

I did my undergraduate degree in pharmacy back in Brazil.

Working in the care industry in a developing country can be daunting so I wanted to do some work in the background and learn more about tropical diseases.

I did a bit of work with malaria and Chagas disease and then I moved onto pulmonary hypertension in cancer, and then I started working on parasites again with Professor Grencis.

 

Do you have any science heroes? Who inspired you?

Every woman in science is a bit of a hero  – especially the ones trying to raise a family alongside building their career. That’s a challenge I’m facing myself.

If I had to give a name I’d have to go with Marie Curie, obviously. She had a very strong work ethic and she was very generous with her work colleagues.

So I’d say Marie Curie.

Could you tell us a little bit about your interests outside of science?

I like reading. I like British and American authors and use it as an opportunity to learn a bit more about the Anglophone culture since I didn’t grow up in the UK.

But, because I have a baby son, I have to admit that currently my activities involve play dates and play groups.

How does being here in Manchester help with the work you’re involved in?

Working in Manchester is amazing. I think mainly the people – they’re very happy, friendly, and helpful.

I think The University of Manchester is ideally what you’d expect academia to be – everyone is very creative and very helpful. It’s a democratic environment to work in.

I think working at the Manchester Immunology Group is very nice because we have cutting edge research going on and amazing scientists in our group. Since I started working here, I have felt at home and made lots of friends, so what else I could ask for?

 

And what more we could we ask for from an interviewee? Thanks, Roberta. A fascinating insight from a slightly different perspective – invaluable information that’s made us want to talk to more ‘tekkies’ in the future.

But it’s another slightly different perspective next week as we chat to Associate Dean for Social Responsibility, Professor Amanda Bamford. Amanda has put research aside to focus on her new role and her teaching, so we’ll be finding out what helped her make that decision.

We hope you’ll join us!

 

Interview by Fran Slater and Kory Stout, Videos by Theo Jolliffe, Images by Nick Ogden

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