Lab Story – Abi Walker

Lighthouse Labs

Medicines Discovery Catapult

What do you do when you’re not working at the Lighthouse Labs?

At the moment I am finishing A-levels at Stockport College as a mature student! I also work at a ready meal company. They’re still open and running as they provide meals to people who are unable to cook for themselves or leave home. It’s very busy there at the moment, as you can imagine!

How many years of scientific experience do you have?

I have a bachelors degree in Neuroscience and a masters in Brain Sciences from the University of Glasgow. It’s been two years since I was in the lab for my MSc, so it’s good to be back!

What is your role in the Lighthouse Lab?

At workstation 1 I move samples from the tubes they arrive in into a plate where, if it is present, the virus is deactivated. Once all 90 samples are loaded into the plate they go off to be tested.

What is the key experience you bring to that role?

I’ve always lived near Alderley Park so have been lucky enough to do lots of lab placements here over the years. I think the most important thing I bring to my role comes from my experience in a busy retail shop. I’m good at concentrating on the same task for hours at a time and I’m used to shift patterns and working in a busy, bustling environment. Ultimately, I think I bring patience, a sense of calm and an ability to persevere to the work I do.

How is it different to your regular role?

Compared to the shop, the lab is actually a bit of a calm haven! I really enjoy knowing that I can sit quietly at my workstation for a few hours and not have to answer any phones or run after someone who’s left their wallet behind. My role here is very different from where I usually work, but there is still an emphasis on attention to detail and ability to stick at a task until it is done.

Why did you want to get involved?

Over the past two years, I have had to deal with huge changes in my life. I have worked my socks off to save up money, I have done a higher education diploma, I have been ill and recovered, all so I can change careers. In September I have a place on my dream university course, but I don’t know if that is going to happen anymore and it’s devastating. The sooner we can live alongside and overcome COVID, the sooner I, and thousands like me, can get back on our life path. I will do whatever I can to make that day come just a little bit faster. Although my contribution is tiny, it’s better than having no contribution at all. Working at the Lighthouse Labs is how I can stay calm in the face of such uncertainty. It’s how I can feel like there is hope and like the past two years of immense hard work will not be wasted. It’s a step I hadn’t factored into my plan, but life is never linear so I will do my best.

What is it like working alongside a host of new colleagues from both industry and academia?

Meeting new people, hearing new stories and working alongside others who are donating their time and skills is an amazing feeling.

What is the best thing about working in the Lighthouse Lab?

At the moment, it is so easy to feel alone. There isn’t a single person affected by COVID who hasn’t had to change their plans, whether just for the summer or for many years to come. It’s against human nature to be so unsure of ourselves. So, the best thing about working in the Lighthouse Labs would undoubtedly be how apparent it is that I am not alone in this. With every shift is the reminder that great change is upon all of us and we most certainly are not alone. It is very reassuring to see how when something like this happens, there are literally thousands of people who will pull together for the greater good.

“The sooner we can live alongside and overcome COVID, the sooner I, and thousands like me, can get back on our life path. I will do whatever I can to make that day come just a little bit faster.”