Laetitia – Research Assistant

Future Morph caught up with Laetitia to find out what her job as a research assistant involves, and how she is involved in the bigger picture of food production.

The Big Picture…

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I initially wanted to be a physiotherapist after working in a nursing home for people who had been involved in various accidents such as car crashes. This was arranged as part of a work experience placement from my school.

Who or what inspired you to become a scientist?

I saw an amazing documentary about biotechnology which I then looked into in more detail and decided to change my career direction.

What do you love about your job and what would you change?

I love the independence and the ability to organise my work the way I want to. However, it can be a bit lonely sometimes because even though you are working alongside others, everyone is working on their own individual projects.


What qualifications did you take at school/college?

I am French and therefore did all my schooling in France, but I took the French equivalent of A-levels in Biology, Maths and Physics.

Did you go to university? Was a degree required for your role?

I have a Masters in Plant Sciences which I carried out in France, as well as a PhD from the UK where I looked into the genetics of resistance of wheat to a particular disease that effects it – the septoria tritici blotch.

Are there opportunities for apprentices within your organisation?

There are not really any apprenticeship positions here, but we do take on a wide variety of work experience placements from Year 10 upwards where students are able to help us with harvesting and inoculating the wheat.


What does your typical day involve?

During my time at work I am mostly carrying out experiments on plants – this may be within the polytunnel where I score plants for disease, or it may be within the lab carrying out PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction to amplify the DNA) and electrophoresis (running the plant DNA on a gel) techniques.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

Getting positive results and feeling that I have accomplished something.

What are the biggest implications your work will/could have in the future?

My work is helping scientists to better understand mildew growth, and will lead to us being able to find better fungicides to control and manage mildew epidemics on cereals, which could potentially lead to increased food sustainability.

How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for someone in your field and how much can this be expected to rise?

The starting salary for a research assistant position is around £23,000 and it can rise to about £30,000.

What’s the most unexpected thing about your job?

The general atmosphere is very relaxed even though we do ground breaking science.


What do your friends and family think about your job?

They are very proud of me.

Would you say you have a good standard of living/work-life balance?

Great! I work part time which is three days a week. This enables me to do my job as well as spending time at home with my family.

What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax?

Not much at the minute as I have 2 very young children!

 …and finally

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

I would like to think that I will be in the same job in 5 years time! I am very happy here. It is the perfect job for me as it can be flexible enough for family life. When my children are old enough for school I will change my hours to work 5 days a week during school hours so that I can take them to school and collect them at the school gate whilst still managing to work in a job that I am passionate about.

What would you like people to remember about your life as a scientist?

That I contributed to my research field.

If you had a super power, what would it be?

I would love to be able to see into the future!


With thanks to the John Innes Centre and Dee Rawsthorne of the Norwich Bioscience Institutes.