Senior Research Technician - School of Georgaphy, Earth and Environmental Sciences

United Kingdom
£27,025 - £29,515
Aug 15, 2019
Sep 14, 2019
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time
Senior Research Technician - 81933

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Grade 6

Full time/FTC for up to 5 years

Closing date: 3rd September 2019

An enthusiastic, innovative and self-motivated person is sought for the position of Research Technician to work on Quinquennial (half-decadal) carbon and nutrient dynamics in temperate forests: Implications for carbon sequestration in a high carbon dioxide world (QUINTUS) project funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and led from the University of Birmingham's Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR). QUINTUS is a five-year research programme that aims to determine how a mature temperate forest responds to rising atmospheric CO2. QUINTUS will deliver a foundational change in our understanding of future carbon uptake in temperate forests, and in mature forests generally. The post holder will make a leading and coordinating contribution to the processing of biotic and abiotic samples from the research woodland Free-Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FACE) experiment. This role combines significant laboratory and field work across multiple disciplines (ecology, hydrology, meteorology, and soil science) but focused on high-precision laboratory analyses.

The post holder will join the BIFoR research team based at the Edgbaston campus, led by Prof Rob MacKenzie, working on environmental / biological samples, and sensor data, from the BIFoR Free Air Carbon Enrichment (FACE) experiment based in Staffordshire. The post holder will make a leading and coordinating contribution to the processing of biotic and abiotic samples from the research woodland FACE experiment. This role combines significant laboratory and field work across multiple disciplines (ecology, hydrology, meteorology, and soil science) and will act as a senior research technician for the Quintus project, as part of a project technical team of 3 and a BIFoR technical team of 9. The post holder will work closely with the BIFoR research team and two other technicians to collect, process and analyse data, under robust quality assurance and control, to support high-end research, and will be expected to give training and guidance to other group members. A potential for working at height in a woodland setting is expected, subject to completion of appropriate training.

The post-holder should be conversant with a wide range of protocols in analytical and preparative chemistry. He/she will be expected to demonstrate knowledge in sophisticated equipment and instruct new staff on its use for a wide range of applications. He/she will provide general maintenance of the laboratories, including managing designated items of equipment and ancillary services such as controlled temperature rooms, isotope handling areas and the monitoring of safety in these areas. He/she will assist with the research group and school in the management of safety including the preparation of COSHH forms and safe maintenance, use and eventual disposal of stocks of chemicals, including toxic chemicals. The post-holder must therefore be fully aware of School and University H&S policies and relevant legislation.

The successful candidate will have a good degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) area, or equivalent qualifications, with extensive experience in laboratory wet chemical analyses. Given the collaborative nature of the project, excellent communication and interpersonal skills are required as well as the ability to meet deadlines, prepare publications and work effectively with other members of the team. The successful applicant will contribute to the impact profile of the team through the dissemination of the project's deliverables in meetings and/or through reports and publications.

Main duties

The responsibilities may include some but not all of the responsibilities outlined below.
  • Collect and prepare environmental and biological samples for subsequent nutrient, elemental, and isotope analyses, including monthly soil membrane sample preparation and retrieval
  • Collect high-quality research data using automated sensors and samplers, including (but not limited to) anion and cation nutrient analysis, ion chromatography, inductively coupled plasma - optical emission spectroscopy, total carbon analysis, and mass spectrometry
  • Analyse research data as directed and archive samples subsequently as a backup and for future research work
  • Present research outputs to other group members and assist in the drafting of academic publications or parts thereof, for example at seminars and as posters
  • Record, develop and adapt experimental methods
  • Provide technical guidance as required to students/volunteers who may be assisting with research
  • Deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines.
  • Provide quality control and assurance of laboratory analyses and data from field instruments to ensure calibration conformity and reliability.
  • Carry out administrative tasks related directly to the delivery of the research
  • Archive data and curate samples using standard protocols in collaboration of the research team and associated technical staff.

Field Work
  • Contribute to intensive soil sampling campaigns on a quarterly basis and ad-hoc sampling events
  • Support canopy access work, if necessary, by managing the harness and winch system, monitoring operator's wellbeing, prepared to perform aerial rescue if the event arises.
  • Carry out monthly soil membrane sample preparation and retrieval

General laboratory organisation, Research support and administration

The post holder will assist with the daily administration and organization of the work area, and will be expected to:
  • Support the group(s) in taking responsibility for maintaining the allocated laboratories, associated rooms and facilities in a clean, functional and safe state
  • Initiate the repair or replacement of any deficiencies which come within the remit of the local budgets and reporting more major deficiencies to the Technical Managers, the Academic Supervisor, or as appropriate, the School Manager
  • Review and prepare Risk Assessments and COSHH documentation
  • Carry out minor repairs and maintenance, clean and service general laboratory equipment used by the group(s)
  • Maintain stocks of laboratory consumables as directed
  • Maintain of a catalogue library for materials appropriate to the activities of the group(s)
  • Make inventory checks of equipment used by the group(s)
  • Provide support to the School's Health & Safety manager in monitoring the safety of laboratory and sample handling areas, and assist in the operation and administration of the disposal of hazardous wastes
  • Keep records of use of services and materials used by individuals for costing purposes

Person Specification
  • A good first degree in an environmental science or chemistry subject or quivalent
  • Experience in laboratory chemical analyses is required
  • Demonstrable knowledge of health & safety
  • Good written and verbal communication skills
  • Experience in nutrient analysis is advantageous
  • Positive attitude and courtesy in dealing with others
  • Ability to manage own work load and demonstrate flexibility in terms of work practices
  • Proficiency in 'Office-type' software packages; experience with 'R' is advantageous

We value diversity at The University of Birmingham and welcome applications from all sections of the community

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