Leaving school before A-Levels and starting a role in a company that produced cleaning products was how Helen began her career.
“I worked there as a quality assurance analyst for about four years. During that time I started doing my ONC and HNC qualifications part-time, before stepping into the wonders of LGC – or Horseracing Forensics Laboratory (HFL) as it was known back then – and I’ve continued to work here ever since.”
Helen has been at LGC since 2006. The company is a global leader in the life science tools sector, providing mission critical components to customers across clinical diagnostics, pharmaceutical, research and government, food and other applied markets. Starting as a laboratory technician Helen has progressed to become a senior scientist, completing a forensic science degree through her company along the way.
“I’m currently working as part of the fantastic nutrition and supplement team which is part of the standards division at LGC, specialising in the analysis of sports supplements. It is our job to extract and analyse supplement samples to bring assurance to athletes that the supplements they are taking are free from inadvertent contamination which may be caused during processes such as manufacturing.”
Every day is different and you never know what challenges you’re going to face. One day you could walk into the lab and find that your instrument has stopped during the night. This would then allow my troubleshooting instincts to kick in to figure out how to get it working again. Other times I could be doing data checking and could find a potential positive putting my data interpretation skills to the test to figure out what steps I need to carry out next.
After hearing that some of her colleagues were achieving their Chartered Chemist (CChem) status, Helen decided to go for it herself, and so joined the Royal Society of Chemistry.
“I wanted to do something extra but I didn’t fancy doing a Master’s or a postdoc. The CChem was a qualification I could do while working, so it was a win-win situation.
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“The process was really easy. I had a mentor at LGC who had a CChem herself to guide me through the process, which was fantastic. As I hadn’t done a Master’s degree I had to complete an equivalence form to show I was working at an equivalent level, which again was easy to fill out as I just needed to outline a project I was working on.
“Having that mentor support was excellent as there were the odd one or two attributes that I didn’t think were relevant to me to begin with, but my mentor helped explain that they were very open ended. I also used the ChemCareers webinars for support as I knew they could help me find out more detail about the attributes.
Helen also uses her RSC membership to access resources.
Membership could have helped me with my degree, so I wish I’d have signed up sooner. There are so many useful tools you can access as a member, and it could help with job opportunities as other people will see and respect those extra qualifications you’ve got from a widely known organisation.
“My CChem has definitely benefited my career as I gained a lot of knowledge through doing it. It has also allowed me to perform different aspects of work which I would not ordinarily have done. One was to develop and fully validate a quantitative assay for the detection of a metabolite of dopamine in equine urine. For this project, I had to plan a proposal, perform experiments, write the CoSHH assessment and then create the standard operating procedure that my fellow colleagues would follow. By doing this, it helped me to obtain quite a few of the CChem attributes, which has also been very beneficial for me as a person.”
“Being able to access all the different scientific papers and journals is really useful, especially if I need to find out certain information with regards to metabolism and analytes at work. I like Chemistry World as a resource too – every month I have a go at the crossword and see how much I have left to learn!”
If Helen regrets one thing it’s not joining the RSC sooner.
“I’ll absolutely continue with my membership as I really value the fact that there are so many members of the RSC and you can reach out to any one of them even though you don’t know them, which is really helpful.”