ION-DRI Programme


Meet the Team: Steffy Czieso

Steffy Czieso is lab operations manager at ION. She tells us about how she has been involved in the ION-DRI, the pros and cons of shared spaces & why sustainability should be top of the agenda.

I’m the lab operations manager and health and safety manager at ION, working in ION’s admin team. I work closely with all the lab managers at ION as well as with Estates and safety services to ensure that we follow UCL guidance and policy. 

I started at UCL about 10 years ago as a lab technician and have worked my way up, including a stint at Imperial College as a lab manager. I moved into this role about three years ago.

I’m not part of the ION-DRI project planning team, but because I work very closely with lab managers, I have a feel for things that are working well or not working so well and this information feeds into the operations planning for the new building.

I get involved in things related to safety, building and facilities and equipment and maintenance and so forth. It’s important that people can get used to certain ways of working now, so it’s nothing new to them when they move into the new building.

The major thing I'm involved with at the moment is the waste initiative, working closely with Kully, as well as helping with Chemical inventory initiatives and sustainability. I give advice from a lab manager and safety point of view, look at best practice,  as well as share managers’ opinions on how well a solution works; how it can be improved and if this is something we want to go ahead with. Often, I know just from walking around the building, where people are struggling, where they need more training or where they need better facilities. 

We started working on the waste management initiative more than a year ago. We’ve been working on a how-to guide, what you should do with the waste; where it goes; what happens to it after it leaves the building, as well as mandatory online training next year for all ION staff, students and visitors. It's about awareness, so you know how to dispose of your waste in the right way and encourage people to recycle more.

I’m one of the sustainability leads at ION and support the LEAF initiative, improving sustainability and efficiency of laboratories across UCL.  I meet regularly with the Green Reps from all the departments to look at how or where we need to improve. I’ve been interested in sustainability for a long time now, so I'm really happy that this is something that's now being rolled out across UCL and that ION is playing a big part.

Lab work is just not the most sustainable thing. During my time working in labs, I noticed how much plastic you just throw in the bin. There hasn’t been much awareness until recently. Someone tells you how to do an experiment and you don't think about ways of making it more sustainable or how your equipment could last longer. It's hard. Everyone wants to do something, but sometimes people don't know how they can contribute. It’s really important to raise awareness of how we can all be involved. 

The new centre at Grays Inn Road is still really hard to imagine as it’s not even built yet. It's a huge institute - we're coming together from several buildings, so the task of setting up the labs, moving in equipment, and moving all of our people is massive! 

I’ve worked in places before which have a similar ethos and it’s a really nice atmosphere to work in. People can talk, collaborate and help each other, you don’t just sit with your teammates all day. I worked in one lab that was like a mini version of the Crick – you could easily see through the glass into the labs, so if you had a question, you could just quickly pop over and ask, rather than having to knock on someone's locked office door. 

From a lab management point of view, though, managing a shared space is more of a challenge. You have to be quite disciplined about the way you use the space, you need to keep it tidy, organised and the model does require a lot of lab support. The open and shared nature of the building is a really good thing. It will be a lot more accessible, inclusive and sends a message that everyone's welcome.