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Alumni Gradfest2021 Randox Student experience

“I’m proud to be involved in COVID testing and to be making a difference in the community”

BSc Hons Biological Sciences graduate Laura Cummings is now a Laboratory Manager at Randox. Here is how she got there…

Laura Cummings, Queen’s alumni

Describe your career path to date.

I studied Biological Sciences at Queens University Belfast and then worked at ALS Environmental in England for a few years as a Senior Organic Chemist. I was fortunate to be able to move back home and find a job not just in my field of science but in a company that has made such an impact in the fight against coronavirus. I’m grateful that the team at Randox have recognised my skills and achievements and given me valuable opportunities for career progression, including my promotion to manager for the COVID labs.

Why Randox? 

I have always had a passion for science from an early age and recognised that the opportunity that science can give you is incredible. It is a career path where I knew I would have a very fulfilling life with constant opportunities for learning and career progression.

I always wanted to do something valuable- something that genuinely helps others and makes the world a better place. I knew that Randox was the biggest innovators in Diagnostics and knew I had to get involved- I am proud to work for a company that is dedicated to improving healthcare and am excited our advancements for the future. 

What is your current role like? What about it makes you want to get up in the morning?

As the UK and Irelands largest COVID testing facility, Randox is critical to the national response to the pandemic. We run up to 120000 daily tests for the UK Governments National Testing Programme so the timely release of accurate and reliable results is key. We have a big focus on quality and are always looking for ways to improve our policies and processes. We have, for example introduced a range of innovative robotic systems which automate the unpacking and racking of samples before they get tested by our scientists. All this takes very active management. 

What does an average week look like for you?

Our staff work 24/7 and my role as a laboratory manager is to make sure that they have everything they need to do their job. I ensure that the labs run smoothly, provide solutions for any issues that may arise and monitor the performance of the testing process. 

What is the most challenging part of the job?

Diagnostics is constantly evolving, and we are always developing and streamlining current processes- currently we are expanding to mobile testing sites over the UK and Ireland therefore sometimes it can be a challenge to keep up but this is also one of the most exciting parts of my job. There is power and confidence in adaptability and to be given the opportunity to bring staff along with the processes through training is very fulfilling. 

What is the most rewarding?

Randox has employed more than 850 new staff into the COVID labs and to work with and learn from such a diverse and multi-disciplined team has been really rewarding. Everyone has risen to the challenge this pandemic has created and I am proud of how we have all pulled together as a team in a time of great need. 

What are your career aspirations? What are their goals? 

I am very fortunate to say that my current position as a laboratory manager has always been an aspiration of mine. Randox has provided me with opportunities which have been invaluable and I can only hope to continue to improve to become more involved in the growth at randox

In what way do you feel like you’re making a difference in your job?

I’m proud to be directly involved in COVID testing as it plays such a vital role in the effort to contain and reduce the spread of the virus and be to be making a difference for the sake of our family, friends and communities.

What expectations did you have about this career path that you have found differed from reality – either good or bad?

I thought a job in science would be very structured with little variability however, after starting my career with Randox it couldn’t be any different. The environment is such high paced with constant movement in terms of people, projects and patterns. 

What skills did you learn at Queen’s that have helped you in your career?

My time at Queens taught me core technical skills both practical and analytical that were essential to my career development. 

What advice do you have for students and graduates wanting to move into this area?

I think the future of the diagnostics industry is very bright and those thinking of a career in this area should definitely get involved. My advice would be to broaden your skillset, as long as your are willing to learn and put in the work you will find the career best suited to you. 


How did your Queen’s experience help your personal and professional development?

Queens taught me to be proactive in regards to building my resume both with personal interactions and experience. There was always a wealth of support from university staff who enabled me to develop in areas of practical, analytical and interpersonal skills. 

How did the people you met at Queen’s inspire you?

I found all the people I interacted with inspired me to succeed, one in particular was Dr Leonid Kulakov whose extensive experience, talent and rapport genuinely motivated and set a platform as to what I wanted to achieve in the future. 

What’s the one thing you’ll never forget about your time at Queen’s?

All of the people I met! 

Interested in Randox? Randox will feature on our @QUBCareers Instagram during the week commencing 28 June talking about commercial awareness. Visit the Gradfest2021 site to find out more. 

Randox are proud sponsors of Gradfest2021 

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Queen's Accommodation Student experience

‘My experience in student accommodation during the pandemic’

To mark Development Weeks, Chloe Buckley, a Residential Life Assistant in Queen’s Accommodation reflects on a year like no other.

Chloe Buckley

In celebration of getting through this challenging academic year, we have been reflecting on the newly evolved meaning of ‘making connections’ and examples of how we have adapted to overcome the difficulties posed by the pandemic in making connection with others. I think it is fair to say that we have all had enough Zoom and Teams calls to last us a life time; from quizzes, to classes and from virtual gym sessions, to simply catching up with a friend, but these tools have been instrumental in allowing us to continue to make connections, and preventing us from feeling disconnected in uncertain times.

Staying connected

Being a Residential Assistant in Queen’s Accommodation this year, ensuring students’ did not feel isolated, lonely or unsupported was a major concern for me from the first day of training, as University can be challenging in so many aspects at the best of times, never mind contending with lockdowns, isolation periods, Covid-19 tests and online learning. Despite all of this, as an RA team, I think we have triumphed in the face of the impossible task of coming up with original online events which would entice students to join, over watching the latest crime documentary on Netflix; and managed to build and maintain connections with students, even behind the masks and screens at the Coffee Bar. It has been so rewarding to help students connect with others as well, as even that small amount of social interaction, in a time where making friends has been limited and policed by restrictions, is imperative to happiness. It has also been incredible to see the work of the Wellbeing Team throughout this year, connecting with and supporting students in their personal and academic endeavours; as well as the Residential Life Team in assisting us to do our jobs in bringing some fun and relief from the monotony of lockdown-life.

Memories of an unusual year

My best memories of connecting with students this year are often from Grab and Go events, where, although students have not been allowed to stay and socialise, we mastered the act of ‘catching up’, all within the time it takes to make a toastie and I try my best to remember everyone’s names despite the short introductions made behind masks many weeks prior. I am so glad I had the opportunity to be a part of the RA team this year, as the fundamental importance of making connections in university was truly unambiguous, and a delight to help orchestrate.

If you have a story about making connections this year, we would love to hear it! Email the Development Weeks team.  

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Advent Calendar advice Career planning Covid-19 Erasmus graduation lockdown Mental Health Pandemic

Surviving final year in a global pandemic

Maeve in Madrid

In the summer of last year, I was adjusting to life in a new city having just started an Erasmus work placement in Madrid. I was enjoying my new independence, tapas, and post-work sunbathing. By March of 2020, a global pandemic had well and truly made itself known throughout Spain, and my international experience, like so many other things, came to an abrupt end.

Suddenly, I was back living at home, completing my final year online and coming to terms with the pending post-graduation panic. It was all a far cry from the pre-pandemic blissful ignorance I was enjoying this time last year. 

Final year is stressful at the best of times, with countless deadlines, exams, job applications and big decisions. Combine that with a switch to online classes and a global pandemic looming large in the backdrop, and it’s a recipe for final year fear.

Learning to adjust

The switch to online learning was something I, like many others, found very daunting.  Microsoft Teams classes and breakout rooms were not how I had imagined my final year of university to be, but I am learning to embrace the positives. For starters, I love avoiding early winter morning commutes to 9am classes. Moreover, I’m recognising that the skills I’ve gained by being thrown into the deep end of online working will be highly valued amongst future employers. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, the need for virtual work skills is no longer limited to telecommuters and global teams; it now extends to most office work. The virtual skills I’ve developed through being immersed into the world of online learning are truly indispensable and highly valuable to employers, so I’ll remember to show them off in my next interview. 

Maeve in Madrid

Looking to the future

And as I begin to look at interviews and how my post-university career path will begin to take shape, I’m aware that my comfortable student bubble is about to burst and real adulthood and responsibilities are looming. 

‘What are your plans after university?’ is a question that rings throughout final year, and while some have a five-year career plan up their sleeve, I count myself among the many who haven’t figured out what I’m doing at the weekend, never mind next year. 

If you’re in a similar situation, and are finding your future really daunting, fear not. Here are some tips that have helped me: 

  1. Don’t get caught up on what your friends are doing. It’s easy to feel that just because everyone you know is applying for Big 4 grad schemes, you should too. It’s important to think about what’s best for you, and understand what you really want. Queen’s Careers Service is on hand to help support you in deciding what to do next. You can book a 1-1 appointment with a Careers Consultant to discuss any aspect of your career management or even receive feedback on your CV/LinkedIn profile. 

Book an appointment in MyFuture

  1. Explore your options! Research, research, research. Graduate jobs are not the only option. Think about postgraduate study – maybe a Master’s programme will be the next step for you? Or, with vaccine hope on the horizon and a slow shift back to normality looking increasingly promising, why not think about working, studying or volunteering abroad? Queen’s Global Opportunities Team can advise you about programmes available. You can arrange a virtual appointment with one of the team to chat about the travel options available to you through MyFuture.

Search Global Opportunities

  1. Leverage the new skills you’ve developed. Although this year has not been the most ideal in terms of academic experience, think about the skills you have developed through its challenges. Not only will employers love those new virtual working skills, but also the adaptability gained by facing a having to suddenly adapt to online classes, resilience gained by facing and persevering through your studies during a very difficult period, and undoubtedly problem-solving in overcoming various issues and problems brought about by the challenges of this year. Think about how to showcase this new skillset, considering how this relates to your ‘selling points’ for your next interview. Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills website has some great interview tips and advice to help you think about this.  
  2. Find comfort in the unknown. Be at ease with the fact that 2020 has been completely unprecedented. It is completely normal to feel anxious and unsure about what your next step is. It’s important to remember that your future isn’t a race or a competition, take your time and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your classmates or lecturers. If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, there is support available in the form of Queen’s Wellbeing who are on hand to help those struggling through these very strange times.

Contact Queen’s Wellbeing Service

If you are unsure about your next step after graduation, there are lots of tools and resources available to you on our website. 

Explore your options by School or Sector.