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Judith Williamson

Part of Women in STEM

Job Title: Advanced Healthcare Science Assistant.
Area of Science: Genetic Diagnosis.
Judith Williamson - Women In STEM

Hello, my name is Judith. I'm twenty four, and I work here in the Human Genetics Department of NHS Tayside as an Advanced Health Care Science Assistant. The work carried out in this department each day plays an important role in diagnosing and treating people with genetic conditions from blood cancers like leukaemia and myeloma, to investigating any genetic links to infertility issues through techniques such as PCR*, array* and fish testing*, we can seek answers to genetic questions that helps guide clinicians and advise patients. As one of the newest members to the team, my work is primarily based in this cytogenetics lab where we set up and harvest cell cultures for karyotyping* and fish analysis. Once these samples have been cultured for the required length of time, slides can be made, baked and finally banded before they're passed to a scientist for analysis. In this video, I'll be showing you some of these techniques. Though certain aspects of my role as a genetics technician can be quite repetitive, I really enjoy knowing that the work I do each day has a real impact and benefits the lives of those around NHS Tayside and beyond. Growing up, I always had a love and interest for serving others and for science, as many of my family members worked in the NHS. At school owing to many of my teachers, my favourite subject was biology. And I can distinctly remember learning about cell division and mitosis, thinking to myself how difficult it would be to constantly retain in my memory all of the cell division stages.

I never thought that the things I learnt in that classroom almost 10 years ago would be key to my work every single day. After high school, I decided to pursue a career in biomedical sciences and did a degree at the University of Dundee. I really enjoyed my undergraduate, especially getting to learn about all the different fields that biomedical science covers. Coming out of the other side of my degree, I knew that I wanted to apply the knowledge and skills that I had attained, but I wasn't sure in what capacity. After moving back home to Shetland, I managed to get a job in the NHS as a Medical Laboratory Assistant. Here, my role involved booking in and handling patient samples and handing them over to scientists for further analysis. Whilst working there, however, I came to feel that I wanted to be more hands on with the science and skills that I had attained during university. I finally decided that I wanted to move back to Dundee and was lucky enough to get the job here in the genetics department at Ninewells Hospital. Though, of course, no job comes without its challenges, for example, sometimes it can be stressful with so many deadlines and urgent samples coming in or when you know a patient is going to receive bad news. However, I really enjoy being in the thick of it and knowing that my work really does benefit others. The opportunity to continue learning whilst helping others is a really important part of my job for me, and I hope to continue to develop my skills.

Technique Definitions:

  • PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction. It is a laboratory technique used to rapidly make millions of copies of a specific DNA segment. This makes it easier to study that segment in detail.
  • Array, or microarray, is a technique used to measure the expression level of many different genes at one time.
  • FISH stands for Fluorescence in situ hybridization. It is a laboratory technique used to detect and locate a specific DNA sequence on a chromosome. This is via fluorescent lighting.
  • Karyotyping is the process of identifying and analysing all of a person's chromosomes.
Judith Williamson
Judith Williamson, Advanced Healthcare Science Assistant, University of Dundee.

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