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Spotlight: Becky Gerrard, Lab Leader at DSRL

Tell us a fun fact about yourself

I enjoy helping in the wardrobe at my local drama group and I helped to create the mermaid costumes at the local pantomime last year.

Tell us about your career journey so far

I graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2015 with a Master’s in Chemistry with industrial experience in a drug discovery company. I started at Dounreay on the 2-year graduate program in 2016 in the Environmental labs, then the higher active labs. Once completed, I moved into a Senior Analyst role in my department before being promoted to Lab Leader for a new lab that is still under development.

What was your favourite subject in school and why?

I like clarity so my favourite subject was maths. It’s the same wherever you go in life and not down to interpretation. There is always a right answer which has a clear and logical path.

What subjects/qualifications are useful in your role?

Although my least favourite subject, English is useful in my role. As in most jobs, you often need to let people know some sort of information and writing emails, procedures and reports is a common task.

Maths is commonly used in my role when analysing figures and drawing conclusions.

Chemistry and Physics are useful for understanding some of the theory and you can apply your knowledge to help with problem solving.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

My job involves analysing samples that are found on and around the nuclear site that I work on. Different samples mean that there is no routine and each day you come into work, there will be something different to do and keeps you interested.

What is a normal day in your role like?

There isn’t a ‘normal’ day when it comes to analysing samples but typically start each day ensuring that the lab is safe to operate in by carrying out safety checks. We receive samples from various areas of the site and we make sure that they arrive in a safe manner. Samples can be anything from liquids from ground water, concrete samples from old buildings to metal pipes from the old reactors. We process the samples so we can analyse them for radioactive nuclides we are interested in.

Suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work?

For some samples we need to separate out some radionuclides from others and measure them to work out how much there is of it. We use a method called chromatography to do this.

Chromatography can be done at home using pens, filter papers and water. The Investigating Ink activity in the SuperStar CREST Award is good for this. It can be similarly done with sweets such as M&Ms where they use different colours to make the shells.


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