Meet Luke Evans, IDRM’s Laboratory Manager and Institute Safety Officer. After undertaking a PhD in Biochemistry, Luke set up the biomedical labs at Solent University and managed a team of technicians at the University of Reading, before becoming instrumental in shaping the workspaces of our flagship Institute.
What is your role like?
Initially, I’ve been working closely with Building Manager Ed Moar to get the labs up and running and set up the building’s safety processes. The practical completion was a real milestone: we’re ramping up now and developing our building services team. There is a lot of fine tuning to do before everyone moves in - from operational aspects such as parcel deliveries to the ventilation system. Our goal is to ensure everything runs smoothly for all building users, so when the researchers move in, they can just get straight into their research. Going forward, I'll be looking after the core lab facilities, shared equipment, and providing safety advice and training. It will be amazing to see everyone in and actually using the labs for their intended purpose. I find the prospect of getting to understand the research better very motivating.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
It’s a varied role where no two days are the same. I love problem-solving, and every day there’s a slightly different problem, and I’m learning a lot as I set things up. While I haven’t been involved since the beginning, seeing things as they develop, and being able to work in a nice new building, is really satisfying. I love being able to shape things and work with some really great people!
What is IDRM’s most exciting piece of lab equipment?
There is a nice variety of equipment coming in. We’re going to have an incredible flow cytometry facility for the building – as well as a number of existing machines moving in, we have four new high-end Sony flow cytometers with three spectral analysers and one sorter, all with four of five lasers for maximum flexibility. Another highlight though is the Oxford-Zeiss Centre of Excellence, an amazing imaging facility with a number of state-of-the-art microscopes, including a lattice light sheet microscope. The imaging capabilities of the building are going to be absolutely superb and this will be an amazing facility for all building users.
What would you like people to know about lab design?
People are often used to walking into the lab and it just being there. But there's just so much to think about! It’s everything from what the benches are made of, to how the ventilation works, to even the little things like having enough coat hooks for lab coats! When things are right, you don’t think about it, but when things are wrong, it has a big impact on how people can work. We’ve had many experienced lab managers and researchers that are joining IDRM come along to do building tours, and I’ve found it really valuable to get their input. You need to get everyone’s views together, from the architects to safety officers to the end users. Stakeholder engagement is crucial to make sure everything works.