Special and Nutrition Chemistry

A day in the life of an Advanced Biomedical Scientist


Macrtin McFaddenName

Martin McFadden

Job Title 

Advanced Biomedical Scientist - Section Leader


Special and Nutrition Chemistry (SNUB) within the Blood Sciences Department in The Freeman Hospital at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust. The name SNUB is a reference to the comparatively anomalous service offered by this section. We offer analysis of immunosuppressant drugs, trace elements, pancreatic elastase and tumour markers such as catecholamines. This is done using bioanalytical techniques such as ELISA, liquid chromatography (HPLC), tandem mass spectrometry coupled with HPLC (LC-MS) and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). We also report toxicology results generated by our colleagues at Wansbeck General Hospital.

Career to date

I began working as a biomedical scientist in Clinical Biochemistry at The Freeman Hospital in July 2011. In October 2015, I took a senior biomedical scientist role in the Blood Sciences department at County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust before returning to Newcastle for my current post. During this time, I have completed qualifications such as the IBMS Specialist Diploma in Clinical Biochemistry and Certificate of Expert Practice in Quality Management. I am currently preparing for the written exams of the Higher Specialist Diploma (Clinical Biochemistry) in September.

The start of my shift 

I work routine hours, officially 8.30am-5pm, but I like to get in a bit earlier and check my emails and my written reminders from the previous day. Then I have a 15-minute catch up with the others in my team about what we need to do that day, what our priorities should be and any adjustments we should make in terms of urgent test requests, staff allocation, training requirements, maintenance of equipment and anything other business! I also touch base with the section lead for the “core” biochemistry team to discuss staffing between our disciplines.

During my shift

This section requires a lot of manual effort so I usually spend time preparing analysers, reagents, patient samples and control materials. Quite often I need to report results from tests that were scheduled for processing overnight. Other tasks include SOP reviewing/writing, auditing and other quality responsibilities, training of staff that rotate through this section, preparing reports for meetings, investigating non-conformities, communicating with management, clinical staff and third party suppliers to ensure our users’ needs are met. If time permits, we try to do some validation and verification work – current work includes development of a HPLC method for fat soluble vitamins, automation of our sample prep, stability studies for various analytes, investigating matrix effect on trace element analysis and assessing potential interference of plasma metadrenaline analysis (LC-MS) caused by anti-hypertensive drugs. I try to catch my co-workers before lunch (1ish) for an update.

At the end of your shift

At the end of the day, I try to ensure that everything is prepared for the following day's work. This might mean emailing staff (or myself!) with reminders or about troubleshooting issues that might impact them, taking a stock check, arranging staffing levels or preparing for the following week's quality or team meetings. With so many different analysers on this section, we often have to contact third party engineers or application specialists for routine servicing or upgrades and troubleshooting issues that cannot be resolved locally.

On Fridays, I ask everyone what their plans are for the weekend and make predictions about how many pints I’ll have – I usually underestimate a fair bit!