This week we interview experimental officer Eddie McKenzie – find out more about his interesting job.
Please explain your role with the faculty and the university.
As Senior Experimental Officer /Facility Manager of the Protein Expression Research Facility, I lead a small team that collaborates with groups across the whole university. We essentially supply a ‘gene to protein structure’ pipeline providing all the in house resources required for cloning and high quality recombinant protein production. In some cases we go all the way from a gene accession code to purified protein product using a variety of prokaryotic and eukaryotic expression platforms. Working closely with the University business development team we also carry out contract work for external companies and in recent years this has proven to be a very successful route to generate additional revenue. The facility also provides regular training, workshops and regular drop-in troubleshooting sessions. With over 200 projects per year we see a lot of common protein production problems and it gives great satisfaction when we can provide a quick fix to an issue or re-direct in a different route based on our experience. In some cases we just help out with kick-starting a project and then the group moves on independently but in many others we’re fortunate to be involved at various stages in the project over many years.
What benefits does an experimental officer offer to the general public?
Every Year MIB opens its door to A level students for a day of talks and live demonstrations. My team has a stall where students can try their hands at techniques such as chromatography and PCR. Recently I was invited to give a talk at Leeds Grammar School careers day and gave them a flavour of how my science career has developed. We also run mini 2 day practical courses for A level students and this is a great way to give them a taste of work in a lab and hopefully inspire the next generation.
How did you first become interested in science?
Visits to the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow growing up opened my eyes at early age to science and I developed a curiosity especially for biology and medicine. I enjoyed re-visiting the museum since with my own family.
Did you have any science heroes growing up?
As a young PhD student, in my role as treasurer of the Oxford Biochemical Society, I was lucky enough to meet with the pharmacologist and Nobel Laureate Professor Sir John Vane. I was fascinated by his research into prostaglandins and aspirin mode of action but also by how he spent his Nobel prize money and the house he built on a Caribbean island!
Who inspired you to study/work in science?
At secondary school I had an inspirational chemistry teacher (and former MP) called John McFall. John helped bring science alive for me by making the lessons exciting and teaching me to question everything.
How has working in Manchester helped you? Think about it
Before coming to Manchester in 2003, I worked previously in the Biotechnology/Pharmaceutical drug discovery sector for 8 years. I gained so much experience from those days but missed out on the ability to publish (where most research was automatically patented by default) and also teaching.
At Manchester I have re-developed my teaching role, as tutor and advisor to the undergraduate Biotechnology course, and this gives me tremendous satisfaction tracking student’s growth and development over the years.
What do you do outside of work?
Living in the Peak district means that I have stunning surroundings. My main interests are hill walking with my wife and dogs and also mountain biking. This summer I’m looking forward to travelling further afield with my recently purchased tear drop caravan. With teenage kids, my main role outside work however is being an unpaid taxi driver and as a roadie to my son’s band!