Nicola is the Head of Laboratory Operations for Brisbane-based Microba’s production laboratory and NATA accredited clinical test. Her role is busy, complex, detailed and covers many areas of operations which she says are ‘interesting’ and ‘dynamic’.
What does a Laboratory Operations Manager look after?
In her role, Nicola ensures there is implementation and adherence to quality systems, occupational health and safety regulations, Australian standards, dealings with OGTR for the approval of genetic manipulations, maintenance and adherence to import permits with the Department of Agriculture to source samples and reference material from international sites, budgeting, monitoring of product development and evaluation, regulatory affairs, adherence to ethics approvals and many other aspects of running an independent laboratory.
What led Nicola to choose this career path?
Nicola chose her current role as she had previously worked in research, management, consultancy and service provision and felt that the role at Microba incorporated all of the skills and aspects from this experience together in one position.
What has been Nicolas career journey so far?
Commencing her training in immunology and drug discovery and design, Nicola worked creating models for disease and looking for new treatment options. Upon starting a family, she established her own consulting firm where she produced published material, reviewed scientific papers and worked in the Defence sector to provide technical support monitoring bio-terrorism threats with a field-deployed based assay.
When new and powerful techniques were developed in the field of DNA sequencing, Nicola moved into service provision with the establishment of a world-renowned service centre at The University of Queensland for the analysis of bacterial populations.
“When Microba was conceived, I put my efforts with the other founders to establish the company and ensure that the laboratory components were of the highest quality and efficiency,” she said.
“Mentoring students and staff progression are passions that have been integral to all of these positions, and I continue to focus on these areas in my current role.”
What are Nicolas future goals?
As to her future goals, Nicola says that she is actively involved in a number of student projects and additional biotech initiatives in a consulting capacity but her future goals lay within global impact.
“My future goals are to see Australia’s talented researchers progress and make meaningful impacts globally.
“I will continue to support Microba’s growth as a leader in the gut microbiome analysis field and look forward to the future development of this exciting field.”
What advice would Nicola give to young students wanting pursue a career in STEM?
“Follow your passion,” Nicola says.
“Don’t worry that you are locking yourself into a specific career path. In science and research you can add skills and move into new fields – they can be management or quality systems, bioinformatics or legal and ethics, and you can transfer skills into many different research areas.
“This is a flexible and exciting career although funding in Australia is challenging. Take an entry level position or volunteer to establish your first skill set and you will be able to work from there to achieve great things if you work diligently and are open to new opportunities.”
For more information and about Nicola and the Microba lab, visit www.microba.com/our-team .