The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) Culture Collections consist of four unique collections of expertly preserved, authenticated cell lines and microbial strains of known provenance. The strains in each collection are made available to the scientific community to be used as controls and reference materials in assays and studies to ensure results are valid and relevant.
We regularly attend scientific conferences and events to promote the collections and find out how our customers are using strains. Two Culture Collections staff share their experience of exhibiting and how their careers have developed.
We exhibit at 10–15 events per year, ranging from one-day events in the UK to longer international conferences in Europe and the US. A lot of organisation goes on behind the scenes to ensure that we have a successful event. In my role as the Scientific Marketing Manager, I am responsible for arranging and organising our exhibition booths with the event organisers and with the exhibitors from the Culture Collections team. This includes supplying all the relevant information, text, images, and logos to the organisers, ensuring the booth has everything we require in relation to furniture, electricity and services, and organising logistics (sending our items and exhibitors to the venues). In addition, I make sure that we have up-to-date promotional literature and items for the stand and organise promotion of the events via email and social media, and on our website.
Events are an integral part of our schedule for the year and are a fantastic opportunity to meet our customers face to face. They also allow us to raise the profile of our four collections with researchers who may not be aware of them. In general, we have one member of the business development team in attendance to answer queries regarding orders and products/services, and a member of the operational team to answer technical queries. Exhibiting at events gives us an opportunity to find out more about our users’ needs, helps us to address any issues, and directs our product strategy.
I have worked for UKHSA and its predecessors for just over 20 years, initially as a microbiologist in the Food, Water and Environmental laboratories in Southampton and London, and then in the standards unit writing UK Standards for Microbiology Investigations. I have a keen interest in science communication and completed an MSc in Science Communication and Public Engagement in 2021 with the University of Edinburgh. My current role allows me to combine my scientific experience with my interest in science communication; exhibiting at events is the perfect platform to connect and communicate directly with our users about our products, services and research.
My day job is being the Operational Lead of the National Collection of Type Cultures (NCTC), one of the four Culture Collections. As such, I am responsible for a team of microbiologists who curate the 6,000 bacterial strains in the collection, preserving them by freeze-drying and accessioning new strains from depositors.
I am very fortunate to be able to attend conferences representing NCTC and Culture Collections as I am proud of the work we do and enjoy sharing this with like-minded scientists. Visiting the stand at a conference is an opportunity for individuals who currently use our strains to ask us specific questions. Common enquiries revolve around how to handle our strains correctly or if we have a strain with a specific characteristic. We also have a chance to show those who have never heard of us what we do and acquire new customers. I particularly enjoy meeting early career scientists who have previously not encountered an organisation like ours and talk through the possible career options available or explain the importance of using authenticated reference materials in their scientific work.
When I was at university, I was fortunate to gain a placement in a laboratory that used NCTC strains so I had heard of the collection but not fully appreciated its significance. I progressed my career from laboratory microbiologist, supervisor through to the Operational Lead with NCTC. Having the opportunity to attend conferences has helped develop my confidence in my own knowledge and my appreciation of the work we do and its impact on others.
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Service desk: www.culturecollections.org.uk/contactus