28 September 2010 (Tuesday) - West Kent Skills Fest

A few months ago I had an email from the boss asking if any of our staff fancied manning a stall at the West Kent Skills Festival. I forwarded the email to my immediate colleagues. No one seemed keen on the idea, so I volunteered myself. A day sitting around talking to students about what I do for a living seemed a somewhat more attractive proposition than a day spent actually doing that living. Funnily enough, as I collected posters and exhibits for our stall during the preceding week, people seemed to be somewhat jealous about my forthcoming day out. All I can say is that maybe this is God’s way of saying read your emails next time (!)

I met up with a colleague from the Margate hospital, and we soon arrived in Tonbridge. Finding the Angel Centre was tricky, but we eventually found our reserved place. The idea of the day was to provide career choice information to local schools and colleges, and we were putting on one of seventy five stalls. We were next to a stall manned by staff from a nursery school on one side. On the other side we had an engineering firm who were offering students the chance to make and float Lego boats. Opposite us was a stall from Charlton Athletic football club (!) and nearby were stalls from Leicester University’s science department, Kent University’s maths department, Kent Highways, Kent police, the Army, and one featuring some rather foxy sailors (woof!). Also present were several other engineering firms, the Royal Air Force, my leccie provider (who gave me a free key-ring), and pretty much everybody and anybody. I don’t think the day could have been bettered for careers ideas

We set up our stall rather quickly, and we soon found ourselves faced with hoards of schoolchildren. At first I wondered if we would be able to hold our own against the competition, but in retrospect I think we gave a fair accounting of our profession. My colleague spoke very knowledgeably about the intricacies of blood groups and the excitement of urgent emergency blood transfusions. I spoke rather loudly, noisily and grossly about the fascinating subject that is human parasitology. (Students like that!) To illustrate my witterings we had a microscope rigged up to show microfilaria (the small blood-borne worms that cause sleeping sickness) and a foot-long dead round worm in a sealed pot (actually retrieved from a real patient’s bum). Between us we also touched on the automated analysis of blood, haemophilia, clinical (and other) uses of warfarin, antibiotics and bacteriology, cervical cytology, and histological examinations. I think we did ourselves proud – before long the students were telling their mates about us. Newcomers to the exhibition were asking the centre management where they could find the “Extreme Biology” stall. I quite liked being regarded as an “Extreme Biologist”.

We were told that there were over two thousand students who came to the exhibition. I don’t think we saw them all, but those that we did meet left our stall actually knowing what a biomedical scientist does and (I’d like to think) with some respect for the hospital biomedical scientist.
Or perhaps it’s fairer to say that most of them did. There was a small minority who flatly refused to even come near the stall because of the inherent squeamishness provoked by the subject matter. There was one young lady who was rather disparaging about the entire concept of biomedical science. She announced (rather patronisingly) that she intends to study at University to find out why people die.
And there was another blossom who asked (in a very shy voice) if she could be an air hostess. Bless….


  1. Oh I am so jealous. Did none of them ask you if they were "Granny Smiths"?
    Happy days. I am glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Wooooo Get you Mr Extreme Biologist......... I feel quite chuffed that I know you not that I wasn't chuffed before hand becoause I was obviously but I am even more chuffed now :o)