Senior Scientific Officer

A day in the life of a Senior Biomedical Scientist - Senior Scientific Officer and Laboratory Manager

Biomedical Scientists prepare tissue samples for diagnosis, such as specimens removed from the body suspected as cancerous. They are occasionally used during operations to examine tissue, whereby a surgeon removes some tissue for a histopathologist to diagnose and a decision is made on how to proceed. 

NameRuth Riisnaes

Ruth Riisnaes

Job title

Senior Scientific Officer and Laboratory Manager



Career to date

1973-1975 “Pool Training Scheme” at St. Thomas’ Hospital (ONC), during which time we rotated through all the pathology disciplines.

1975-2007 Histopathology at St. Thomas’ Hospital (HNC then IBMS Fellowship Exam). I started as a BMS (MLSO) then worked up to Senior BMS Band 7***

January 2007 to present at the Institute of Cancer Research, Cancer Biomarkers Team.


The start of my shift

I supposedly start at 9:30am but this can vary if meetings have been arranged for an earlier time. There is no shift work but the start time differs to suit each person, as long as the work is covered. Everyone does overtime most days to complete the work, but this is because we want to finish things. We want to do the very best for our patients! Which even means coming in at the weekend when required.

The first thing I do as I start my shift is to check my diary. I list the priorities for the start of my shift, but they often change during the day. Most meetings will be prioritised, attendance at biopsies when it’s my turn on the biopsy rota (yes I still like to keep my hand in here!), immunohistochemistry (IHC) which is planned in advance, plus any results from previous IHC or identifying tumour in biopsies by looking at slides with a pathologist. Any staff problems or Health and Safety issues will be important. I am a Fire Warden as well as a trained First Aider at work, so I could be needed for a fire drill/real alarm or needed urgently as a First Aider.

I run the Histopathology section of the team but don’t allocate work as such, as each person has their own projects which they are involved in, plus their turn on the biopsy rota. Most people in the team organise their own work with targets and deadlines being set by our Team Leader. Objectives are also set during appraisals, so I have to arrange these for the staff I manage.  I do ask people to do things as part of being a lab manager, and not all of the team are Histopathology staff.

During my shift

Every day is different here, there is no routine like I had previously in a diagnostic lab. My next tasks may be meetings such as the HTA Committee or the Health Safety and Environment (HS&E) Committee, as I am the HS&E Representative for the whole Division which our team are part of. We have weekly lab meetings where we have to present our work, telephone conferences, learning development such as courses, conferences and talks to attend, plus Site Initiation Visits (SIVs) for our sponsors. I have to also record all leave records for the team, and submit these monthly to HR.

Some weeks I do lab work and attend biopsies, and some weeks my work is totally managerial. A significant part of my work is antibody optimisation and validation for IHC, which is then viewed together with a pathologist, and if successful, the resulting scores will be recorded, and presented at a lab meeting. Ultimately, the IHC will be used in a large cohort of patient tissue samples and the results published!

Priorities change when important or urgent things crop up during the day and have to be fitted in. Certain things are planned in advance, with some diary items being flexible so can be fitted in around others.

At the end of my shift

My priorities at the end of the day are to finish all essential items in my diary, even if I have to stay late to complete them, and to do as many optional tasks as possible. My official finishing time is 5:30pm, but I stay late most days to get things done. This is my choice, and most people here do the same.