60 seconds with Katie Morrison
Katie is the Departmental Safety Officer (DSO).
In this interview, Katie tells us about her role as DSO, provides a brief overview of the Facilities team, and gives us an insight into her career journey - from obtaining a degree in Genetics and Biochemistry, to working as a Medical Laboratory Scientific Officer, to Research Assistant and Lab Manager, and presently, DSO.
You’ve recently taken on a new role in the Department, tell us a little about it…
In April 2019 I took over from Mick Woodcock as Departmental Safety Officer following his retirement. I am the first port of call for Health and Safety queries and issues, but I am by no means an expert. If I don’t know the answer there is a whole array of specialists at the University Safety Office who I can ask.
All queries are welcome so do not be afraid of asking.
I am also still a member of the Facilities team, but since Nov 2018, my role within the team has changed so that I am now dealing solely with issues relating to Health and Safety and Governance. The Governance side of things entails ensuring compliance within working practices, for example relating to the Human Tissue Authority legislation.
And why is what you and your team do important?
The Facilities team as is the case for any administrative discipline, enables the scientific work to continue and without them, no work would be possible. They perform a myriad of tasks many of which are unknown to the majority of people in the Department. These include: Allocation of space, servicing of communal equipment, refurbishments, arrangement of inductions, obtaining/replacing equipment and printers.
The Safety and Governance aspects of my role also help facilitate research as we aim to ensure that all practices are carried out as safely as possible and in compliance with legislation. Obviously we want to reduce accidents as much as possible and create an atmosphere in which questions can always be asked and researchers helped to consider the best ways of doing things. Downtime and reputational damage could result as a consequence of both accident/non-compliance and the aim is to avoid these if possible.
What’s currently at the top of your to do list?
The University Safety Office will be carrying out their annual inspections next week at the ORCRB and RRI. I still have some tasks to do before the first inspection at the ORCRB on Tuesday 9, although I hope that all colleagues will play their part in helping to prepare for them.
How did you get to this point in your career?
By accident as I think is the case for many people!
After obtaining a degree in Genetics and Biochemistry from Newcastle University my first job was as a Medical Laboratory Scientific Officer in St Thomas’ Hospital working in the Haematology/transfusion labs where I really enjoyed the practical work but after several years wanted to get into research.
I moved to the Medical Research Council’s Human Biochemical Genetics Unit at UCL as a Research Assistant (RA) and worked on genetic predisposition to neural tubes defects. In 2000, this unit was closed and I was fortunate enough to find a place at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the other end of the ‘boulevard’ at the Old Road Campus, here in Headington.
I joined a Canadian group as RA/lab manager, the focus of the group being the genetics of multiple sclerosis. The group contributed greatly to our current understanding of the importance of Vitamin D in health/disease.
As is so common in science, in 2012, the group disbanded due to lack of funding and all went their separate ways. My PI is now running a water sports park in Ontario!
I wanted to stay in Oxford as I loved the lifestyle compared to that of London and found a job in Oncology Facilities ‘up the boulevard’, thinking I could use my knowledge of both laboratory work and the University in this role.
I particularly enjoy the practical side of things so was pleased to take on a more Health and Safety orientated role when the opportunity arose
What do you like to do to relax?
I enjoy kayaking, especially on the sea, where the conditions are a bit more interesting than on rivers and lakes!
I bought myself a kayak a few years ago and whenever I can, set off with a group of friends to different coastal locations.
You can see so much more wildlife from the water, including inquisitive seals, nesting seabirds and the occasional otter.