New QUOD Colleague Questionnaire – Dr Jenny Collins

Dr Jenny Collins – Tissue Handling Technician & Communications Officer

What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD? 

I had two part-time jobs before I started with the QUOD team. I worked in publishing, as a Managing Editor of an endocrinology journal and as a copy editor, and I also worked in a secondary school as a Science Technician.  
 

What interested you about working with QUOD? 
As well as my background in publishing, I previously worked at the University of Oxford in research. This role appealed as it gives me the opportunity to bring together my lab skills and publishing experience in an organ transplantation setting, which is hugely interesting and will have an enormous positive impact on people’s lives.  

What does your role involve? 

I receive biopsy samples from various tissues (heart, kidney, liver, and ureter) and process them for histology. The formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded samples are then stored in the QUOD Biobank until they are requested for research. When the samples are required for research, I then cut sections and prepare slides for histological analysis.
I will also be involved in public engagement and communications to help to increase awareness and visibility of QUOD and the incredible impact the biobank can have on transplant research.

Lightning round time: 

If you were stuck on an island what three things would you bring? 

 A radio, a knife, and a great book.

Where’s your favourite place? 
It has to be the Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill in Edinburgh. I grew up in Edinburgh and have a lot of great memories of family walks here, including rolling eggs down Blackford Hill at Easter, which has also become a family tradition with my own children.

Finally, what kinds of enquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you? 

Any questions about tissue processing or communications can be sent to me via email: jenny.collins@nds.ox.ac.uk.

New QUOD Colleague Questionnaire – Kerry Clare

Kerry Clare – Oxford Transplant Biobank (OTB) Coordinator & QUOD Oxford Regional Operational Coordinator

What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD and OTB?

I was working within the Oncology & Haematology department at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford as a Clinical Coordinator.

What interested you about working with QUOD and OTB?
I have previous experience with haematology and lab work and thought a role within a research biobank sounded interesting and rewarding.

What does your role involve?
I am the Senior Biobank Coordinator for OTB & QUANTUM biobanks and the Regional Operational Coordinator for the Oxford region for QUOD. I retrieve and process donor samples, ensure accurate entry of details into the respective biobank databases and am responsible for the smooth running of the sample collection and storage process.

Lightning round time:

If you were stuck on an island what three things would you bring?

My dogs, a fishing net and matches.

Where’s your favourite place?
Cornwall – many memorable family holidays.

Finally, what kinds of enquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you?

Any sample collection and/or processing enquiries for OTB, QUOD and QUANTUM biobanks. Email kerry.clare@nds.ox.ac.uk.

Spotlight on a QUOD Colleague – Dan Eggleston

For this edition of the QUOD newsletter, the spotlight shone on Daniel Eggleston who is a Senior Clinical Scientist within the field of Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics (H&I) at the Manchester Royal Infirmary and a Regional Operational Coordinator (ROC) for QUOD.

Dan’s first foray into the field of organ transplantation began following his undergraduate studies in Biochemistry at Royal Holloway University, where it became clear that he wanted to pursue the applied sciences more. He completed a master’s degree in Transfusion and Transplantation Science at Bristol University before joining Anthony Nolan, a charity dedicated to matching potential donors on a growing stem cell register to patients with blood cancer and blood disorders. The organisation also facilitates research working towards improving survival rates and quality of life after transplantation, providing post-transplant care.

When asked what advice he would give to any graduate students looking for a foothold in the applied sciences, which is often competitive as entry level positions are highly sought-after, he advised reaching out to relevant companies, making connections and being persistent. Dan also recommended tailoring the application to focus on experience garnered while completing University projects that are relevant to the skillset outlined for the position.  

As a Senior Clinical Scientist for a H&I laboratory, Dan uses Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) techniques to identify patient and donor Human Leucocyte Antigens (HLA) supporting organ transplantation (such as kidney, heart, lung, islet and pancreas), as well as stem cell and bone marrow transplantation, of which Dan is a donor himself. Dan can often be found on call, assessing the HLA type of a potential deceased organ donor, and creating a crossmatch or compatibility assessment to test if an organ from a potential donor can proceed to transplantation. Dan finds the on call work the most rewarding aspect of his role, though he has noted how challenging it can be during this time when balancing all the different offers of transplantation from potential donors across the country and trying to help as many patients and potential transplant recipients as possible following delays attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When not using his favourite piece of equipment in the lab, a PCR system for rapid cycling and tissue typing called the LightCycler, Dan supports the work of QUOD as a Regional Operational Coordinator (ROC) with Manchester being one of the regional centres for the biobank. This role involves taking receipt of QUOD boxes from the Manchester organ retrieval team, then centrifuging, aliquoting and freezing the blood, urine and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) samples, and shipping the box containing tissue biopsies to the hub at Oxford. Dan is also responsible for adding information from the QUOD worksheet to the QUOD database, which is integral for maintaining the traceability of the samples collected from a particular donor. Further to this, Dan has recently become the ROC representative on the QUOD Steering Committee. Part of this role is to provide feedback on research proposals submitted to QUOD. Dan remarked how interesting he finds this work as it shows where the samples, that he is involved in processing, are being used. He can then feed this information back to the team based in the H&I lab in Manchester, so they can stay well informed regarding the application of the biobank samples to current research.

In the last year, Dan has become a committee member for the British Society of Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics (BSHI), a national, professional body formed over thirty years ago that represents and supports the network of H&I laboratories across the UK. The objectives of the society are to encourage the advancement of scientific research and understanding of the application of these developments, as well as ensure the highest professional standards of competence are met by providing guidelines for best practice, training opportunities and CPD schemes for career progression. To this end, Dan has also taken part in a Higher Specialist Scientific Training Programme, funded by NHS England, all about leadership in healthcare. Dan also mentioned how he is looking forward to the next BSHI conference which is due to be held where he is based in Manchester next year.

Dan’s dedication and interest in facilitating transplantation research extends beyond his professional work, as he has helped raise money for Kidneys for Life, a Manchester-based charity which focuses on funding research into kidney disease, transplantation, in addition to supporting renal and transplant patients. Additionally, Dan took part in ‘Race for Recipients’ as part of National Organ Donation week, in order to raise awareness and to honour organ donors, recipients and those waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant.

Although he no longer captains a softball team in a charity league, which was a pastime during this time at Anthony Nolan, Dan likes to spend his spare time (when not on call) playing squash, going for a run or playing video games.

New QUOD Colleague Questionnaire – Dr Ana Gil-Bernabe

Dr Ana Gil-Bernabe – Quality & Governance Manager for QUOD and QUANTUM Biobanks

What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD?

I worked in the Human Tissue Governance group, which is part of RGEA (Research Governance, Ethics and Assurance), within Research Services at the University of Oxford. This was a research support role focused upon ensuring that work with human tissue at the University of Oxford is performed in compliance with the UK legislation and the Human Tissue Licence conditions. Basically, the aim was to allow the progress of science within the legal and ethical boundaries that regulate clinical research.

What interested you about working with QUOD?

During my time in the Human Tissue Governance group, I interacted with the eight biobanks that operate under the main Human Tissue Licence at Oxford, including both QUOD and OTB. This was a great opportunity to understand what a fantastic research resource biobanks are for researchers, here and abroad, and how they optimize their very valuable samples that are donated to the biobanks. QUOD is a fantastic example of national and international collaboration, with samples collected and delivered to multiple sites. I understood that it was a great opportunity to apply my acquired knowledge on human tissue governance and quality assurance, as well as to progress on my knowledge on human tissue biobanks and their governance. Last, but not least, I do have a passion for research (I have been a researcher for about 15 years) and the field of transplantation is very close to my heart.

What does your role in QUOD involve?

In a nutshell, ensure that QUOD adheres to the legal and ethical frameworks that regulate clinical research in the UK, in particular the Human Tissue Act 2004, and to the conditions of the Human Tissue Licence at the University. QUOD Governance is transitioning to a Quality Management System, iPassport, to make this task easier, and part of my role will be to support this transition. We will use iPassport to manage our governance documents, run audits, report non-compliances and keep training records, for example. I will also support compliance with other frameworks that relate to clinical research, such as the Health Research Authority or the Research Ethics Committees.

Lightning round time:

If you were stuck on an island what three things would you bring?

  • Documents, of course, any activity needed would be well described in the relevant Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs);
  • iPassport, of course, all those documents will be accessible through iPassport;
  • Nothing else, I love the sea, so I’d enjoy the opportunity to swim and explore the island.

Where’s your favourite place?

It could well be that island, but probably my hometown, Cadiz, as it not only has a lovely coast, but also all the ingredients for happiness: family, friends, good weather and good food. In its absence, any place near the sea, with the sound of the waves and the smell of the salty water.

Finally, what kinds of enquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you?

Anything to do with governance and quality assurance: documents (SOPs, Risk Assessments, Working Instructions), audits, non-compliances and training records, for example. As we transition to iPassport, I imagine many questions will be related to the use of this system.

You can reach me at ana.gil-bernabe@nds.ox.ac.uk and I’m setting up other ways of communication, using Planner and Teams – more information to come!

Spotlight on a QUOD Colleague – William Murray

This year, QUOD is celebrating its 10-year anniversary and for this edition of the QUOD newsletter, I was delighted to speak with William Murray who has been a Specialist Nurse in Organ Donation (SNOD) for NHSBT since the inception of QUOD back in 2013 in Edinburgh, Scotland. QUOD has now collected over 128,000 samples from more than 7,000 donors, supplying in excess of 38,000 samples to more than 55 research projects. This milestone would have certainly been insurmountable without the extraordinary efforts of this national consortium, including the Specialist Nurses who have such a critical role in the process.

William describes his role as a SNOD for NHS Ayrshire and Arran as multifactorial. He explains how the Specialist Nurses manage the process of organ donation from the point of referring a potential organ donor, working with colleagues in the intensive care units (ICU) and being present in theatre during retrieval. The SNODs are also responsible for the clinical management of the donor to ensure the stability of the patient all the way through the retrieval process through to family after-care. This includes speaking with the families or next of kin of the patient regarding consent/authorisation for research and the collection of samples for the QUOD biobank. William notes that the key to being a SNOD is communication, empathy, forming a rapport with people and using your instinct to judge what is right for every family member going through what is a very difficult time in their lives.

William explains how the respect and dignity to the families’ loved one is upheld and in the foremost thoughts of those involved during the process of obtaining samples for research purposes and that taking biopsies for QUOD does not affect the efficacy of the organs upon transplantation. Sample collection for QUOD closely mirrors the sampling required for the donation process and families are already aware that blood and urine is routinely analysed from patients while in hospital. William notes that the QUOD process works well because it has been built around the systems that already exist in the hospital.

When asked what advice he would give to any nurse or clinician considering specialising in organ donation, he advised to not lose sight of the unique relationship between the relative or next of kin and the patient, that the bond between a couple or parent and child does not change regardless of age and to be mindful of this.

The work that William does for QUOD is in fact a relatively small aspect of his day-to-day routine. He talks about how SNODs spend much of their time on call, covering the region that they work in which can often be a very large geographical spread. For William, this can include the whole region of Scotland! When not on call, William says that his focus is on teaching and raising awareness in addition to clinical audit and policy development. The latter includes identifying potential limitations or barriers to organ donation and working closely with clinical colleagues and committees to design and implement policies that address these barriers.

William remarked that change in his role is almost constant as incremental changes often occur on a weekly basis in reaction to clinical outcomes. William also discussed the interest in supporting organ donation and changes that he observed following the Government Campaign in Scotland, ‘Do Not Leave Your Loved Ones in Doubt’, which urged the public to register their decision with regards to the NHS Organ Donor Register and to speak about their decision with their families.

To close, William observed how being a SNOD is a complex role, helped by technological advancements with more information leading to better outcomes, very hard work but also incredibly rewarding; a unique position which gives him the opportunity to bring about meaningful change far and wide, and yet still work on a local level in the ICU, which is very important to him. He remarked how privileged he felt to work in a role that can help patients and their families across the UK, “What I do in Ayrshire, makes a difference at a national level”. Having started his career as an intensive care nurse, William says that “the intensive care unit is in my bones” and speaks warmly of the camaraderie and community embedded in the ICU and the connection amongst the SNODs.

A special thank you to all the SNODs across the UK, along with all the clinicians, retrieval teams, surgeons and technicians that have enabled QUOD to reach this monumental milestone!

William Murray was interviewed by Hannah McGivern.

Spotlight on a QUOD Colleague – Prof Lorna Marson

Prof Lorna Marson

For this edition of the QUOD newsletter, the spotlight shone on Professor Lorna Marson. I was delighted to speak with the new Associate Medical Director for Research and Development at NHSBT about her distinguished career.

Spotlight on a QUOD Colleague

Lorna started her medical career as an undergraduate student at St Thomas’ Hospital, London which was then a much smaller medical school with an annual intake of only 90 students. Although she enjoyed all aspects of her studies, it was during her time in London when there were very few female surgeons, that her interest in surgery piqued. Unfazed, she was even more determined to pursue a career in surgery, training in local district general hospitals and thriving. She spoke fondly of the sense of community she felt during her time working with the wider team, including a year of training in Dumfries.

However, it was working in the national transplant centres in London and Edinburgh that afforded more opportunities for Lorna to be involved in transplant research and train as an academic. When asked what pearls of wisdom she would pass on to early career researchers, she advised to be open to new opportunities outside your comfort zone and try not to have tunnel-vision in view of where you expect your career to go.

Although at first, a self-proclaimed “reluctant researcher”, Lorna enjoyed taking time out of her clinical work to pursue her research interests. She remarked how she had wanted to dedicate time to aligning with scientists to establish a high-quality and unique research programme, at the same time as being an excellent clinician for the benefit of her patients. Lorna spoke highly of the mentorship, welcome and guidance she was given by Professor Sir John Savill, Professor Jeremy Hughes, and Professor Sir Peter Morris, from learning about technically challenging renal transplant models to the role of macrophages in early kidney injury. We discussed their impact and support during the formative and later stages of her research career, and the honour she felt in collaborating with them.

In addition to her own research commitments, Lorna has been intrinsically involved with QUOD, working closely with Professor Rutger Ploeg. She spoke of the very challenging but immensely rewarding experience of being involved in the early development of the biobank in Scotland, and that the next stage is to optimise its benefits, promote accessibility and ensure that the governance remains robust. The aim is to set the precedence of the UK as an exciting place to undertake research in transplantation for industry and academia, aligning the transplant timeline with recipient data to get a more complete picture of what happens from donation onwards. Lorna views her new role as an exciting prospect, including managing the relationship between QUOD and NHSBT, providing an academic oversight for the OTDT clinical trials unit, as well as reviewing and meeting the OTDT 2030 strategy. This includes addressing health inequalities in organ donation and transplantation and ensuring that there are effective and relevant patient outcome and experience measures in place.  

Aside from her clinical and academic roles, Lorna is the College Dean of Admissions for Edinburgh Medical School. As a result, she plays an integral role in shaping undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral experiences at the University. As the school’s lead for Diversity and Respect, Lorna hopes to broaden the socio-economic and ethnic landscape of the student population in this historic institution. She spoke earnestly about the need for the medical workforce to reflect the community they serve, to providing an open atmosphere where students facing financial hardship or challenging times can ask for help, and that there is a support network in place to assist. It is critical to support parents of young children in the profession, having received such support when her own children were very young: “By providing this support for a small number of years, they will then deliver”. Looking to the future, Lorna wishes to address the urgent disparity in gender within surgery, and provide support to ensure that students succeed and flourish in their career endeavours.

To add to her accolades, Lorna was elected as the first female President of the British Transplantation Society (BTS) in 2017, which she said was a huge honour. The society celebrated its 50th anniversary at the 2021 congress which Lorna attended in Belfast. She spoke warmly of the experience, returning to face-to-face interactions, stating that it was a “brilliant reminder of why we work as hard as we do to transform transplantation”. She also spoke of her delight that students and trainees had a platform to present and share their research, with some contending for medals. Lorna hoped going forward that more scientists will be encouraged to attend the society conferences and continue to enrich the discussions and collective sharing of ideas between researchers and clinicians, all ultimately to benefit patients in the future. Furthermore, Lorna remarked that the 50th anniversary was a time of reflection and an opportunity to look forward optimistically about the future of transplantation, in the hands of the next generation of scientists and clinicians: “[We need to] make sure that they are involved in the strategic progression of the field and nurture the future leaders of the profession”.

A keen open water swimmer and cyclist, Lorna can also often be found running with her 18-month-old Labrador in tow around the rural outskirts of Edinburgh. Her passion for the outdoors and exercise in general, she says, is essential for her mental health and wellbeing. A budding triathlete, Lorna looks forward to her next challenge…an even bigger triathlon!

Professor Lorna Marson was interviewed by Hannah McGivern

New QUOD Colleague Questionnaire: Dr Meng Sun – Data Co-ordinator & Analyst

What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD?
Before joining QUOD, I was a genetics data analyst working at a public body following previous experience as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford.

What interested you about working with QUOD?
I have always liked working with data, databases and statistics. Being a data manager and having the opportunity to do research at the same time sounded like a good combination. QUOD’s position is also attractive because here we are working in an important area – organ transplantation. What we do really matters for patients.

What does your role in QUOD involve?
My main duties include managing databases for QUOD and OTB (Oxford Transplant Biobank) and their web applications, working with researchers on sample selection and data analysis. I also attend various meetings to provide statistics and advice related to databases and research.

Lightning round time:

If you were stuck on an island what three things would you bring?

  • a sharp knife for hunting and cooking;
  • a box of matches to make fire;
  • a tent to live in.

Where’s your favourite place?
Port Meadow, Oxford which is huge, a good place for running or just wandering.

Finally, what kinds of enquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you?

Please contact me if you would like to know more about the samples we have in QUOD and how they could be used for your research. The best way to reach me is by my email meng.sun@nds.ox.ac.uk.

Spotlight on a QUOD Colleague – Dr Bill Scott

For this edition of the QUOD newsletter, the spotlight shone on Dr Bill Scott who is the Scientific Director of Transplantation and Regenerative Medicine at Newcastle University, liaising with colleagues in all transplant specialities, orchestrating the daily running of the labs with a focus on moving basic and translational research into clinical practice. Bill is a key member of the QUOD hub in Newcastle, formed during the MRC funded expansion of QUOD to include whole organs made available for research. This important steppingstone will form the basis of many more research projects and enable access to bespoke samples to help answer burgeoning questions posed by the wider transplant community.  

Bill has spoken of his interest in improving access to tissue for research purposes, which has led to his collaboration with QUOD. He commented on how QUOD is uniquely positioned to address fundamental questions by facilitating access to blood, urine and tissue samples which are intrinsically linked to details of the donor. When asked what he thought was the biggest hurdle facing sample accessibility, he highlighted the importance of effective communication between all parties concerning consent and regulation at the start of the retrieval process. “As we leverage new techniques” he said, “we need to consider how we communicate this [information] to a lay audience”.

Bill has many more strings to his bow, which I was delighted to discuss with him. Originally hailing from the United States, Bill recalls his aptitude for maths at an early age, entering maths competitions when at school. He later undertook an undergraduate course in engineering at Ivy League University, Cornell, which also included core biology modules in addition to maths and engineering. These early studies underpinned his combined interest in medicine and engineering; after all, an engineer is adept at problem-solving, and throughout his postgraduate and doctoral training in Minneapolis in biomedical engineering, it became evident to him that the fundamentals of engineering could be applied to help solve problems in the clinical sphere. His interest was piqued by organ donation and transplantation research where there were, and still are, a number of issues to tackle, all with the common goal of helping clinicians and improving transplant outcomes for patients.

The NHS relies on companies making reasonably priced and accessible devices to help healthcare professionals deliver expert care to their patients. Bill highlighted the problem that many products are not affordable and are manufactured in the United States with the US reimbursement model, which differs completely from that of the UK and Europe. New devices developed on the back of high-quality research must serve real-world needs as well as make a profit for investors. Sounds like a tall order, right?

With this in mind, Bill took his years of research and learning a whole new vocabulary to approach and pitch to investors, sought to develop a device that could address key issues raised by the transplant community. At present, the demand for organ transplants far exceeds the supply, and current preservation systems rely on static cold storage which cannot be relied upon to keep the donated organ in optimal condition for more than a few hours. Methods that can sustain optimal conditions for prolonged periods of time are too large, complex and expensive. Bill, in collaboration with clinical engineers, software developers and investors, have developed the ScubaTx device designed to be fit for the real-world transplant environment and automate as much of the process as possible, while providing feedback on key events for the surgical team who can focus their attention on the transplant procedure rather than setting up a machine. Funds have been raised through Innovate UK and currently a number of prototypes are going to stakeholders across the world, with the hope that one day in the near future the device will be suitable for commercialisation. 

Over the years, Bill has also successfully acquired financial backing for several start-ups and research projects. When asked what advice he would give to early career researchers and future entrepreneurs looking to write their own grant proposals, he emphasised the need to just put yourself out there. “You miss out on 100% of opportunities you don’t try for, [and] it takes 100 times of repeating the same task to get good at something” he said. Essentially, persistence and resilience are key. Bill also advised to “not limit yourself to one funder” and take time to understand what motivates the funder, as they will each want something different. He continues by describing the continual evolution of a grant proposal, adapting to the feedback received and the importance of finding the right investors and stakeholders who share your vision.

Bill can often be found in front of an audience of another kind as he leads the MRes Transplantation course as a Senior Lecturer and Associate Professor. He says it is a very rewarding experience as he gets the opportunity to inform, inspire and foster greater progress and interest in the field in the next generation of nurses, healthcare professionals and researchers, all of whom form the backbone of the NHS. For Bill personally, teaching also gives him the chance to re-connect with his specialist field, to see the bigger picture and highlight problems that face the current generation.

When asked what piece of advice he would give to his students and mentees, he highlighted the importance of forming a narrative, regardless of whether you are creating a poster, presentation or producing written work like a grant proposal or manuscript, “if you do not tell a story, then you are simply stringing together a series of facts on the screen or on paper, expecting others to read the situation exactly as you do”.

When Bill is not teaching, presenting or working in the lab, he enjoys hikes in the countryside with his dogs and fishing, where he can embrace the tranquillity and explore the natural beauty of Northumberland.

Dr Bill Scott was interviewed by Hannah McGivern

New QUOD Colleague Questionnaire: Emma Greig – Transplant Research Project Manager

In September, QUOD welcomed our new Transplant Research Project Manager – Emma Greig. Emma has agreed to share a bit more about herself and her role at QUOD.

What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD?
I was living in Toronto working as a Project Manager at an advertising agency.

What interested you about working with QUOD?
I started working in advertising shortly after graduating from university. After working in advertising for a few years I wanted to eventually transition to a role that was more impactful. When I was planning my move to the UK I found the QUOD job posting and it seemed like the perfect fit!

What does your role in QUOD involve?
The main focus of my role is to make sure projects finish on time, in scope, and within budget. I spent the first few months of my role organizing the QUOD finances, but now I am focusing on setting up commercial projects and helping organize the logistics of the ADMIRE project that will be using QUOD samples.

Lightning round time:

 If you were stuck on an island what three things would you bring?

Water, shelter, a survival kit. I may have watched a season or two of Survivor during the lockdown and am thinking about what they usually need!

Where’s your favourite place?
Toronto

What was your primary COVID-19 lockdown survival method?
I started crocheting during the lockdown and just made my first blanket.

Finally, what kinds of enquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you?
Anything related to project management or crocheting. I can be reached at emma.greig@nds.ox.ac.uk.

Spotlight on a QUOD Colleague – Lewis Simmonds, Data Analyst QUOD

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This week I ‘met up’ with QUOD colleague Lewis Simmonds, of NHS Blood & Transplant.  Lewis is a statistician and provides QUOD with the data required for researchers.

Lewis joined the QUOD family in July last year after graduating from Bristol University with a First-Class degree in Maths and was given the task of streamlining the way QUOD’s data is gathered and extracted.

When a research scientist requests clinical data (for example donor, retrieval and recipient follow up data) to go alongside samples from QUOD, they must first select the data variables appropriate to their research question, which are listed on the QUOD website. This process then generates a spreadsheet that is communicated to our QUOD Data Coordinator here in Oxford, who then completes the data access request and sends it over to Lewis so that he can extract the requested data from the NHSBT database. 

When Lewis first joined us in the summer this process was rather lengthy and variables were colour coded into categories according to the lead times to receive the data, these were anything from under a month to more than three months.  This system has worked well until now, but as QUOD has become more well known, its activity has increased and the requests for samples have multiplied.  Lewis has turned this around by building a new database that produces the information easily at the click of a button, that will eventually be able to be run by any member of trained NHSBT staff within a much shorter timescale. It has taken quite some work to harmonise the data into a uniformly functioning format with fine tuning of the interactions between bodies of data but he says this work is almost complete. In just 6 months Lewis has transformed the process and QUOD is ready for action!  He will continue to work with QUOD to make changes to the website and before long researchers will be able to reap the benefit.

I asked him if he had learned his skills during his university studies.  He told me that he had learned Python, R, SQL and SAS, all of which are high level programming languages, at university but it is his fascination with how programmes interact with data structures and tables that led him to play around with programming in his spare time, testing his theories in developing games amongst other things.  His latest interest has expanded to website design and how the information that a website user taps into an interface is routed behind the scenes to create datasets, purchases, bookings or information collection.  He told me he has always been interested by how different systems can work together and loves exploring the possibilities to render systems compatible to a desired purpose. 

Lewis is based in Bristol and like a lot of us is still working from home though he enjoys going into the office one day a week.  The thing he likes best about his role is the creative freedom he has to seek out ways to improve systems and increase efficiency.  When he first took on the role, the biggest challenge was to familiarise himself with the many databases and their different properties in terms of function, formatting and location.

The most unusual thing Lewis has done in a job was when he was still at school.  As a fresh-faced sixth former he helped a friend run a mail/internet order business selling glowsticks, glow ears, flashing dog collars, baseball caps and light up bouncy balls!

In his spare time, other than tinkering with programming he is very keen on music with a particular penchant for Drum & Bass which has led him to DJing in and around Bristol on the weekends.  In lockdown he developed a taste for Hip Hop and Rap and he also enjoys cycling and a round of golf!