UCL Division of Medicine


Spotlight on Roberta Perelli

Each month the division will interview a member of staff about their role at UCL and what they do. In September we interviewed Roberta Perelli, Health & Safety Lead for the Division of Medicine.

Roberta Perelli Photo in Iceland by a waterfall
What is your current role and what do you enjoy most about your job?

I am the Divisional Safety Advisor for Medicine (and a FMS Safety representative) and have been in this role for 10 years now. I oversee all aspects related to H&S in the Division, from lab refurbishments to specialist risk assessments, inspections of lab areas, accidents prevention & investigation, emergencies response etc. I am also a Radiation Protection Supervisor, Laser Safety Officer and Wellbeing Champion. The Division of Medicine is huge, spread over 7 buildings and employs hundreds of staff and students - the variety of its research is impressive and so interesting. Big credit must go to our lab managers, members of the H&S Committee and researchers who do a huge amount of work towards maintaining a safe environment, it really is a collective effort. I feel privileged that I get to meet and interact with most people in the Division, as well as interacting with colleagues in Estates, Operations, Security etc. Every day is different, and I’m definitely never bored. Sometimes it can be a bit too “exciting” (not to say stressful)…

What is your background and how did you find your job in this field?

I have a Research Degree in Biotechnologies with 2 years MRes specialisation in Medical Biotechnologies (from the University of Padova, Italy) which is handy background knowledge when working on genetic modification risk assessments. I also gained a further MSc in Forensic Science in London in 2005 and am a trained forensic scientist – that was fun, I learnt everything from crime scene investigation to firearms and explosives, forensic documentation etc – we even got access to trials at the Old Bailey - and for my thesis at LSBU I did some work on 1H-NMR spectroscopic analysis of metabolites to estimate post-mortem interval. I think my love for safety started there, as one of my favourite modules was Investigation of Accidents & Disasters, where we analysed root causes of past catastrophic disasters (such as Chernobyl and Piper Alpha). A lot can be learnt from past accidents. Before joining UCL I worked for several years at Imperial College, first as research scientist at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, then as Laboratory manager at the Hammersmith Campus and as Safety and Lab Ops Manager in the Department of Infectious Diseases at the St Mary’s Campus. There I managed several labs, including a very large Containment Level 3 Suite and CPA accredited diagnostic labs, and I really started specialising in safety legislation, HTA regulations, safety aspects in Clinical Trials (I worked on SPARTAC, a big HIV clinical trial), interacting with government regulatory bodies such as the Health & Safety Executive who regularly inspected us. I gained my NEBOSH certificate in 2012 and in 2013 I completed my training as a Biosafety Practitioner and became accredited. I moved to UCL when I was offered my current job by Raymond (Macallister, then Medicine Director) as I really enjoyed the safety field and wanted to focus on it, I’m probably one of the very few odd ones who do!

What are your interests outside work?

I love travelling and going to Italy (especially Venice where I’m from and hiking in the Dolomites around Belluno, where I grew up) and South Africa where my husband Tim is from. I like cooking, home improvement projects/DIY, crafting, classic movies, reading and I love theatre. I was with an amateur theatre company for years when I lived in Italy, but that was in another lifetime really. I also like tap dancing, although I’m so not good at it! But my favourite time is spent with my husband and our 6yrs old son. Any spare time, well there isn’t much, I use to study for my National Diploma for Occupational Health and Safety Management Professionals with the British Safety Council, which I hope to complete at some point next year.