Marine Institute

Senior Laboratory Analyst

Linda O’Hea - Senior Laboratory Analyst

What section and service area do you work in?

Marine Chemistry, Marine Environment and Food Safety Services 

Third level qualifications and where you obtained them?

I undertook the Diploma in Applied Sciences with Dublin Institute of Technology, Kevin Street specialising in Analytical Chemistry and then continued for another year and completed a BSc in Analytical Chemistry. During my final year, I had the opportunity to combine my final project with the bursary programme at the Marine Institute, located in Abbotstown, Dublin at that time. On completion of the bursary placement, I was successful in obtaining a lab analyst position within the Residues Team in the Chemistry Section and then decided to switch to a studentship position in order to complete a Masters by research (MPhil) on “The Development of Methods for the Analysis of Trace Metals in Marine Sediments” in conjunction with the Marine Institute and DIT. Following completion of the Masters I then worked as an analyst within the Chemistry Section for a number of years before taking up my current role as Senior Lab Analyst. 

What are your main responsibilities?

As Senior Lab Analyst, there are two main aspects to my position; working in the lab carrying out metals analysis and working as part of the chemistry section management team. 

My work with metal analysis involves the testing of fish shellfish for both food safety and environmental monitoring to ensure compliance with various EU and Irish directives and legislation (Food Safety legislation, Water Framework Directive, Shellfish Waters Directive), and also in accordance with OSPAR’s Joint Assessment and Monitoring Programme.

A comprehensive analytical quality assurance programme underpins testing within the Marine Institute's Marine Environment and Food Safety Service Area. A number of methods used have been awarded INAB accreditation to ISO 17025.  My role involves ensuring that this accreditation is maintained and also preparing new methods for accreditation. The main analytical techniques used in the lab are Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (GFAAS), Cold Vapour Atomic Fluorescence Spectrometry (CVAFS) and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICPMS). The results of analysis and research are reported to a number of clients including Department of Food and Marine (DAFM), Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well international organisations such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and OSPAR. I have also participated in a number of the Winter Environmental Monitoring surveys aboard the RV Celtic Voyager which is completed annually by the Chemistry section. 

In assisting with the management of the team in the Chemistry section, I oversee the day-to-day running of the laboratories, particularly health and safety matters.  I also manage the work of the lab attendant and research students/ JobBridge Interns placed in the Chemistry section. I represent the chemistry team on the Health and Safety Committee and the Laboratory Management Group. Procurement and tendering are important elements of my management duties. 

What are the most interesting aspects of your job?

My role as an analyst is very rewarding. I enjoy being involved with each stage of the analysis process from sampling and sample preparation to analysis and reporting of results. I also enjoy being part of the wider Chemistry Team and training new analysts, students on placements and individuals participating in the FAS Internship programme. These training positions offer new scientists the opportunity to gain practical work experience to support the theory learned in various courses.  

Why do you think the work of Marine Institute is so important?

The Marine Institute plays an important role in marine monitoring and research. The Marine Institute’s monitoring programmes ensure that food safety standards are met and that levels comply with a range of EU Directives as well as with national requirements. I think that a valuable asset of the Marine Institute is its staff and their extensive knowledge and experience which is continually passed on to new staff and students through training programmes and work placements.

What are your best career tips for someone in your area?  

Consider college placement schemes and FAS internships to gain work experience in a variety of laboratory settings. Working in laboratories within a company or research facilities is very different to working within a university setting so talk to your lecturers about various opportunities. It is important to be enthusiastic about your work and to proactively seek employment and training positions. We are always happy to discuss ideas and research plans that people may have.