Winner: Industry Technician of the Year
For validating complex methods for the analysis of special nuclear materials.
Celebrate Katie Bell
Katie Bell’s work involves instrumental analysis of a range of radioactive nuclear materials in support of Sellafield Ltd’s mission to safely and securely operate and clean up the Sellafield nuclear site.Read winner bio
After graduating with a degree in Combined Arts from Durham University, Katie Bell decided to pursue a career in lab work, having worked as a technician in an agricultural laboratory during holiday periods. Initially training as a food microbiologist in Co. Durham, she then moved to Cumbria where she has worked in the Analytical Services Laboratories at Sellafield for 14 years, beginning in the Mass Spectrometry section and gaining an HND in Applied Chemistry via day-release to college.
Katie carried out the commissioning and validation of a new MC-ICP-MS instrument and subsequently led the lab for eight years, maintaining the instruments, training analysts and carrying out high-precision analysis of nuclear materials in support of nuclear fuel reprocessing. She then worked on the commissioning of a new ICP-OES lab, overseeing instrument installation and testing and coordinating the validation of an improved method for the analysis of trace elements in radioactive materials. Katie is currently a member of the Analytical Support Team, providing technical support to Sellafield’s instrumental labs, and last year achieved Chartered Chemist status.
How did you first become interested in chemistry?
I found the lessons dull at school and dropped all sciences after GCSE, but I had a holiday job in an agricultural laboratory collecting soil samples and preparing them for analysis which I found very interesting and really enjoyed. After graduating with a degree in Combined Arts and unsure what direction to follow, I decided to see if I could get back into lab work.
What motivates you?
I find learning new things very rewarding and am always researching and reading up on different analytical instruments and methods and techniques. I regularly study online courses in my own time and attend scientific talks and lectures including my RSC local group.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Having an Arts background, I had to teach myself A-level-standard chemistry from a textbook before undertaking my HND. I still sometimes find it difficult to think of myself as a chemist or even a scientist, despite achieving Chartered Chemist status last year.