Fab labs ... when the kit's working

September 30, 2005

Name : Mark Pfuhl

Age : 39

Job : Lecturer/Royal Society research fellow at the department of biochemistry at Leicester University, doing basic research in structural biology with a focus on proteins that are damaged as a result of inherited mutations.

Salary : Not enough for the amount of work.

Background : Diploma degree in biochemistry from the Freie Universitat Berlin, PhD from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg.

Working hours and conditions : It's 24/7, but we have nice new labs and offices and the work is (mostly) satisfying.

Number of students taught : One MSc and two PhD students. I also deal with systems managers for our computers and nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers.

Biggest challenge this year : The department has moved into a dedicated research building with spectacular facilities. But we are plagued with the usual teething problems of a new building - nothing really works.

Worst moment in university life : A grant application doesn't receive funding, the odd manuscript gets rejected and some experiments are not working - typical for a scientist.

What is your working environment like? I split my time between my bright little office that has a nice view of a cemetery, the very spacious biochemistry lab and the NMR spectrometer rooms, which are positively cavernous.

What university facilities do you use? A range of catering services from grabbing a sandwich to having a three-course meal with colleagues. From time to time I take a staff training course in the admin buildings and go to the library to look for a book or article.

Do you socialise with people at the university? I get along very well with colleagues. We have seasonal events - a barbecue a few weeks ago, a picnic the following week. We are organising a ski trip for January.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with? The contractors who come (supposedly) to fix the many problems we have with our new building.

Do you interact with other parts of the university? There is an ongoing effort to link scientists active in basic biological research with those working in clinical research in the Leicester University hospitals. A group of us from biochemistry have set up a collaboration with cardiologists to study a gene that becomes important when the heart is put under extra stress.

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