Lesley Mitchenall recognised with Lifetime Achievement Award

We are delighted to announce that Lesley Mitchenall has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the first Research Institute Technician Awards (the RITAs). 

On hearing the news of the award, Director of the John Innes Centre, Dale Sanders said, “This award brings well deserved recognition for Lesley’s highly successful career. Lesley’s achievements have been outstanding. Her commitment and approach are fantastic, and she is a talented scientist and colleague. Without Research and Support Staff like Lesley the John Innes Centre would not be able to do the ground-breaking research it does”. 

Lesley, a Research Assistant, was nominated for the award by Professor Tony Maxwell, who said, “Lesley’s achievements have been exceptional. Over her career she has authored and co-authored numerous high-profile papers from work in my lab, and she provides a range of scientific skills to many people.” 

Lesley said she was “truly amazed” to receive the lifetime achievement award and commented: “I have been fortunate to work with so many amazing people over the years. I hope this award helps to highlight the contributions that all research assistants make to the science at the John Innes Centre and the support they provide to students and post docs.”  

Aside from her scientific output, Lesley’s outstanding achievements have extended to laboratory management and pastoral care, co-supervising a very large number of people, including: 27 postdocs, 24 PhD students, six temporary research assistants, four year-in-industry students, and more than 25 BSc/MSc project students and visitors over her career here at the John Innes Centre. 

Lesley has built a reputation as a knowledgeable and approachable colleague.

Tony commented, “The John Innes Centre and UKRI-BBSRC owe Lesley a debt of gratitude for this previously unsung support. She provides unparalleled technical support and is an approachable and reliable colleague. Over the years she has acquired a considerable skill-base, which includes molecular biology and protein-purification skills. Many rely on her as the ‘go-to’ person for her knowledge and advice on a variety of scientific techniques”. 

The Technician Commitment was established in 2017, and now more than 50% of UK universities and many research institutes are signatories of the commitment.

The judging panel for the RITAs consisted of the Technician Commitment lead for each of the nine member institutes, with nominations judged on skills, contribution, leadership, collaboration, output and impact. 

One of the key aims of the Technician’s Commitment is to increase the visibility and recognition of technical staff, and the Research Institute Technician Awards celebrate the skills, talent, experience and dedication of technicians at Research Institutes across the UK.  

Nominations were sought for five categories and there was a very high standard of applications across a large diversity of technical roles and each category was very competitive. 

The 2021 RITA winners are: 

  • Contribution to institute COVID-19 response – Lesley Shirley (Sanger) 
  • Technical skills specialist – Matt Fairburn (Babraham) 
  • Contribution to outreach or knowledge exchange – Helen Cooper (MRC-LMB) 
  • Contribution to the Technician Commitment- Tatiana McHardy (ICR) 
  • Lifetime achievement – Lesley Mitchenall (John Innes Centre) 

The winners were presented with their awards at the Research Institute Technician symposium on 5 November by Kelly Vere MBE, Programme Director for the Technician Commitment. 

Alongside Lesley we were proud to have six Research Support Staff nominated from the John Innes Centre. 

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