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View Full Version : Anyone with experience in a university genetics department?



Death Bean
03-02-2008, 03:25 PM
My questions are thus:

What typical staff are employed?
Would there be a general handyman on campus who, say, did the boilers, but also had the expertise to fix the delicate microscopes or scanners when they went wrong? Or would the lab have their own expert?
Is the department concerned only with teaching students, and the goals/research change every year, or can it be a working laboratory, concerned with only one purpose (i.e. finding a cure for a genetic disorder) that the students are allowed to visit and interact with? Or both?
Would/could the genetics department count as a charity within itself, or would the whole university be a charity and they recieve only a portion of the funds raised? Or perhaps a grant from the government?As with me other questions, any info would be great! :D

waylander
03-03-2008, 02:03 PM
OK - my experience relates to a UK university and actually the chemistry dept but I think it could be relevent.

Firstly it rather depends on the size of the department, whether it is large enough to have its own building or whether it just occupies one floor of the Biological Sciences building.
Staff employed - professor/head of dept, tenured lecturers/asst profs/post-doctoral researchers, permanent technical staff to run specialist instruments, admin assts.
There might very well be a general technician employed whose job is to fix/keep going the scientific instruments/install or move small instruments - otherwise you have to wait for expensive engineers to show up and fix stuff. The boilers and heating circuit would be looked after by the University Buildings Maintenance division.
Most tenured staff would have ongoing research programs with PhD students and post-doctoral researchers. Undergrad students would be expected to undertake small research projects, interacting with the post-gads and post-docs, as part of their final year.
The dept would receive funds from a variety of sources: government grants, medical research charities, partnerships with big pharma, donations from individuals, money earned as royalties from patents on stuff originating in the labs that were commercialised.
There could be a particular lab that is fully funded by a research charity dedicated to research into one disease area

HeronW
03-03-2008, 03:41 PM
Chem dept in university:
--What typical staff are employed?
Depending on size, 1-3 secretaries, the amount of grad students doing experiments varies according to the budget, undergrads may or may not be there depending on if the dept head has time to shepherd them on their thesis.

--Would there be a general handyman on campus who, say, did the boilers, but also had the expertise to fix the delicate microscopes or scanners when they went wrong? Or would the lab have their own expert?

Maintenance men will fix boilers but they are lightyears away from delicate instrument techs.
One would contact the equipment mfgr. to fix the equipment for problems.

--Is the department concerned only with teaching students, and the goals/research change every year, or can it be a working laboratory, concerned with only one purpose (i.e. finding a cure for a genetic disorder) that the students are allowed to visit and interact with? Or both?

Most labs will have the Dept head focused on one: pancreatic cancer for ex. the post docs/undergrads would work on something related: T cells, growth factors, etc.

--Would/could the genetics department count as a charity within itself, or would the whole university be a charity and they recieve only a portion of the funds raised? Or perhaps a grant from the government?

Science departments live on grants. Some may come from the gov't, others are based on papers published (the publish or perish line) on goals to accomplish or set. The papers are submited to various grant institutions and judged. Private individuals can also contribute to a certain department.

Fenika
03-03-2008, 06:40 PM
A large department would hire someone to fix their expensive gear. (here there is a company near by that can be called in, although the uni is large enough to keep its own repair staff if they wanted to.) Microscopes commonly go for over 10,000 dollars (or so I'm told) so no way you'd let anyone but an expert take them apart. The genetics department would probably use the same service/staff as the rest of the uni...

Tsu Dho Nimh
03-03-2008, 07:13 PM
Would there be a general handyman on campus who, say, did the boilers, but also had the expertise to fix the delicate microscopes or scanners when they went wrong? Or would the lab have their own expert?
The servicing of the scopes and other equipment is usually contracted to the manufacturer's service engineers, OR the university has a technical repair staff trained in how to fix the lab equipment.

You do NOT mess with those things without some electronics background and specific training. The chances for screwing them up, requiring expensive repairs, is really high.

And, the staff who run the boilers and AC equipment don't let the bio-tech staff muck with the heating equipment. it's equally specialized, just bigger.

Death Bean
03-03-2008, 08:56 PM
OK - my experience relates to a UK university and actually the chemistry dept but I think it could be relevent.


Wonderful!! I actually forgot to mention I was looking for experience in UK genetics departments... being a lifelong resident of this fair land (!) I know little of what lies further afield, haha!

Everybody's advice: really, really helpful, especially regarding the staff, especially the technical maintenance. Thanks!!

(Oh, and keep it coming, subject still open ;))

waylander
03-03-2008, 10:00 PM
Wonderful!! I actually forgot to mention I was looking for experience in UK genetics departments... being a lifelong resident of this fair land (!) I know little of what lies further afield, haha!

Everybody's advice: really, really helpful, especially regarding the staff, especially the technical maintenance. Thanks!!

(Oh, and keep it coming, subject still open ;))

So your major funding bodies are going to be the MRC and Wellcome Trust, everyone is worried about the Research Assessment Exercise, how to recruit enough undergraduates to keep the dept open and the postdocs about getting permanent posts

PM me if you want to know more.