Thermal Analysis Technician, Brian Paterson, launches the "Getting to know" series by telling us about his work in the Chemistry department.

Tell us about your role at the University

I am one of the senior technical staff in the School of Natural and Computing Sciences, based in Chemistry within the Meston Building. My primary role is Thermal Analysis Technician, providing an analysis service to staff and students of the University and also external companies who are looking to observe the thermal behaviour of their compounds which range from liquid crystals and polymers to bones to crude oil.

In 2014, I was awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry Technician of the Year (Higher Education & Research) for my expertise in ensuring the facility is maintained and providing assistance to staff and students with their analysis requirements.

In addition to my role in Chemistry, I’m the Chair of Unite the Union, Aberdeen Education Sector and spent many years as Secretary to the University of Aberdeen Group. This role sees me being extensively involved in working with the management of the university on policies and procedures as well as negotiating and consulting on employment matters on behalf of members.

I’m also the non-Academic staff member on the University Court and I’m currently serving my second three year term in this role. The other governors and I are responsible for the overall governance of the institution. In the past I have also served as a trustee for UASLAS, the local support staff pension scheme.

I also spent three years in a seconded part-time role with the Business Improvement team, a role which enabled me to learn new ways of working and one which I try to apply to my daily job now that I have returned to Chemistry on a full time basis.

How do you usually start your day?
Each day as a technician is different, but like most staff in the digital age a quick check of emails is always required. Many day “starts” are simply an extension of the previous day’s end. Maintenance and calibration of equipment and associated fault finding can often span a few days, meanwhile the analysis of samples still needs to be performed and technical staff are most often the “go to” people in an area if there are building issues which can range from providing access to a lab to working with colleagues in Estates. Whilst having specialist skills we also provide the practical side of daily operations, it keeps things interesting!
What brought you to the University of Aberdeen?

I always wanted to be science based, from a very early age I had a wish to become a GP, however as time goes by and you start to realise your limitations you fine-tune your direction. So I went from GP to Pharmacist to getting to the point I just wanted to leave school and get a job, even deciding that if I had not found one by the end of 5th year I was going to join the army and become a medic.

A trainee technician job was advertised in Medicine and Therapeutics in 1986 which I applied for was successful. Three years into training I moved to the Rowett, however I was happier at the University and sought to return and managed to do so in October 1992, securing my current role.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

Being able to apply my specialist skills and the variety which the role can bring. I also enjoy the people contact and being able to assist scientifically or otherwise and it’s been great that as part of the university family I have been able to pursue “non-role” duties and I have been supported to do so by all levels of the management teams.

What are your work priorities at the moment?
I have recently been allocated the task of daily management of a single area in Chemistry where I am able to gain a further level of experience whilst being the conduit between some of our post graduate students and their practical requirements, whether that be arranging for a joiner to come and fix something, to advise on Health and Safety or arrange routine apparatus maintenance.
How do you like to relax outside work?

I recently started running which despite sounding like hard work (it is!) is actually a great way of emptying the mind at the end of the day. I’m looking forward to running my first marathon next year. I also play golf, however I have discovered that despite practising that for over 30 years, I’m better at running!

As a family we enjoy theatre, cinema and music and thankfully we all like running.

I am also a gamer, aviation enthusiast, follow all motorsports and a keen amateur photographer.