Passing on the entomology bug

October 14, 2005

Name: Peter Smithers

Age: 57

Job: Terrestrial ecology technician and entomologist at the School of Biological Sciences, Plymouth University. I support academic teaching and research in the field of terrestrial ecology and contribute to field trips (both day and residential) that have an entomological content.

Salary: £25,000.

Background: I took a City and Guilds in laboratory management while working as a technician at Guildford Technical College. Went on to gain an HNC and then moved to Plymouth in the mid-1970s when it was a polytechnic.

Working hours: My hours are 37.5 per week but I'm hardly ever out before 7pm. I am South West regional secretary for the Royal Entomological Society and I organise meetings for the Peninsula Invertebrate Forum.

Number of students you teach/staff you manage: I work with huge numbers of people, mostly in relation to students' projects.

Biggest bugbear this year: The proposed space-charging scheme (a new government initiative where departments will have to hire the rooms they use from their own universities). It will lead to people not using available space because of the financial disincentive to do so.

Worst moment in university life: I was on a field trip in the Borneo jungle and I noticed something hanging from my hat. When I took it off there was a line of leeches around the brim attempting to get at my head.

What is your working space like? I have a corner of the lab I work in.

What university facilities do you use? The canteen, library and cycle racks.

Do you socialise with people at the university? The staff have food evenings and the odd wine tasting.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with professionally and how do you cope with them? I have a very relaxed policy towards life. I find if you engage in a dialogue with people, the barriers melt away.

Best excuses for bad behaviour you have heard: The ever-increasing pressure of work tends to make people fractious.

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? Yes, and I do a lot of outreach work - for example, taking biology into local schools, an exhibition about insects at the local museum and a collaboration with a puppet theatre to produce a show about garden bugs.

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