UCL Career Frameworks



Helena Wong, Senior Chemistry Teaching Laboratory Technician, Department of Chemistry

Helena Wong
I am the Senior Chemistry Teaching Laboratory Technician of the Physical Chemistry undergraduate teaching laboratories, in the Christopher Ingold Building. My role is to provide continuity, full oversight, and operational management of the Graham Physical Chemistry teaching lab.  This includes stock control, procurement, provision of resources, budget management, equipment and instrument maintenance, lab infrastructure, building services, waste management and Health and Safety. With assistance from 0.5 FTE Grade 6 Natural Science Technician (whom I task manage) and a full-time Grade 4 technician (whom I line manage), I provide technical support for 900+ Chemistry undergraduates in years 1 to 3. This number is not inclusive of the students in other programmes of NatSci, Life Science and Chemistry MSci projects that we (as a team) also support.

A major part of my role is supervising the preparation of all teaching lab sessions to ensure their smooth and safe delivery, to maximise learning outcomes and the student experience. To achieve this, I advise on feasible timetabling, deliver instrument and equipment training to both staff and students, suggest and assist in developing new lab activities, work with academics to improve existing practical classes and teaching methods, advise on the procurement of new instrumentation, equipment and troubleshoot technical issues as and when they develop. Basically, anything that is required to ensure the learning outcomes of the lab activity is achieved together with good student experience.

I also implement sustainable practices, support physical and mental health needs of all students, and support equity for all students in the Graham Lab. Preparation of internal and external demonstration resources also falls under my remit. In 2019, I oversaw the refurbishment of the analytical teaching labs. Since 2018, I have been a volunteer assessor for the professional awards of RSciTech and RSci status on behalf of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).
I did my Chemistry degree and my PhD in Synthetic Organic Chemistry at the University of Bristol. After my PhD I took a career break to bring up a young family, re-entering the workforce in 2004 as a Biology Technician in a foundation school, followed by a chemistry post in a grammar school from 2007 until 2011. This allowed me to juggle childcare responsibilities until my children were of a more independent age. 

I started my current post at UCL in 2019 arriving from King’s College London where I had been a Teaching Technician of the chemistry labs in Pharmacy, mental health 1st aider and deputy radiation protection supervisor of the department. I made this move from organic to physical chemistry to recognise my potential and facilitate my career progression. My journey at King’s started in 2011 as a Junior Technician, despite my previous qualifications, knowledge and experience. In my time at King’s, I helped relaunch the Chemistry department (which opened in 2012), oversaw the refurbishment of the teaching labs in 2014, sat on the Development, Diversity and Inclusion committee (from 2018) and the Athena Swann application committee of the department (2015). I was also a founding member of the core focus group at King’s to drive the Technicians’ Commitment movement (2016), and one of the first at King’s to be professionally registered as RSci in 2013. My sustainability champion work for labs started at Kings in 2017. 

My journey to where I have arrived has not been conventional. My proactiveness and willingness to volunteer for additional and challenging responsibilities has equipped me with skills which prove my capabilities and potential, while giving me the experience and opportunity to grow, develop and secure the position I am presently in. 

Outside of my own personal ambitions, I maintain a commitment to participate in activities that will support the recognition of, and promote career progression opportunities for, all Technical Professionals at UCL.  Through my active engagement with UCL’s Technical Manager’s Group, the RSC, and other collaborative groups, I will continue to work towards improvements that the technical community have long deserved.