Guest Message - Kirsty Turner, Research Support Services Manager

As many of you may have noticed from my ‘Out-Of-Office’ message, I’ve just returned from a 4-week holiday.  

It was truly a luxurious holiday, which included a cruise with family along the Mediterranean coast starting in Barcelona and stopping at various ports on the coast of France, Italy, Malta, Montenegro and ending in Italy. My daily routine on the cruise ship consisted of getting up in the morning, showering, meeting family members for an elaborate buffet breakfast, going to the pool, enjoying another sumptuous buffet lunch and then some entertainment in the evening. Everything ran seamlessly and as passengers, we could truly relax and enjoy it all. I felt like a queen!

Although on holiday, I could not completely switch off my ‘operations brain’. I could not help but wonder about what was happening in the background to allow us to enjoy this carefree experience and I was fortunate enough to receive a glimpse of this at the Captain’s Welcome Drinks, where we heard from the Operations Director of the ship.

He introduced us to his operations team and revealed some of the daily processes that take place in the background without us noticing. Each day, as we docked at a new port, the crew was busily managing waste disposal, restocking food supplies, undertaking ship maintenance, and dealing with an enormous laundry load for passengers and crew.

Considering the cruise ship hosted 3500 passengers and 1980 crew members, this was a huge undertaking.

Unseen by passengers, the central internal section in the upper levels of the ship was one massive laundry for bed linen, towels, table cloths, uniforms and even passenger clothing. The bottom levels of the ship were for waste disposal systems and grey water recycling.

My 2 year old daughter was particularly taken with the entertainers, and as we were regulars at the shows we got to meet the cast. It was fascinating to learn that whilst they were performing music and shows for us in the evening, during the day they had other jobs, like booking group tours, or working in the laundry. It turns out that every crew member had multiple jobs on board, and it became very clear that these “invisible jobs” were crucial to the success of an ocean voyage for passengers.

I could not but help draw parallels with Institute life. Much of my work as Research Support Services Manager and that of my team members takes place in the background to ensure the smooth running of the Institute. The work is varied and often requires us to take on different jobs at different times:

  • Managing the Specialist Store, OHS and reception: Although the ‘crew’ I manage is much smaller, my role requires me to manage this fabulous group of people who make up an integral part of the Bio21 Administration team.
  • Compliance: I also have responsibility for ensuring that compliance requirements for all research laboratories in the Institute are met. This includes the oversight of OH&S compliance for all laboratories in the Institute, ensuring compliance with our State and Federal laws, as well as the set policies and procedures for regulatory bodies, such as OGTR and Biosecurity (i.e. quarantine).
  • Finance and HR: Working closely with David Keizer (Scientific Research Manager) and Jessie Chan (Senior Management Accountant), we are responsible for preparing annual budgets and ensuring the Institute’s operational needs can be met financially throughout any given year. As part of my management of the Specialist Store, I am also responsible for ensuring all orders have the appropriate financial approvals.
  • Moving new groups into the Institute: Even before new groups (UoM or industry tenants) move into the Institute, I am responsible for liaising with them to ensure the proposed lab and office space meets their operational requirements. This includes teaming up with my trusty colleague Tony Whyte (Building and Operations Officer) to work on any infrastructure requirements and renovations, and may also include managing the logistics to move equipment and general items.

For example, even before Rhythm Biosciences moved into the Institute, I worked together with Craig Lewis, Louise Miller and Glenn Gilbert to set up their office space and ensure their new laboratory space complied with PC2-Australian standards and other industry accreditation standards. This was no mean feat, as they were moving into the space previously occupied by the Women’s Hospital for more than a decade. It was a challenge to convert the space we had to meet the needs of our new tenants and make the necessary changes within weeks of signing the contract. The paint was practically still drying as the team from Rhythm Biosciences moved into their new space, but by working with a great team here at Bio21 we were able to welcome Rhythm Biosciences into the building seamlessly.

I had never thought that I would take a cruise ship holiday. Up until this point in my life it had not been my kind of holiday: you would have been more likely to receive a postcard from me hiking along the Kokoda Trail or from Everest Basecamp.

This time I was travelling in a group, with my elderly parents, a sister (who has some significant health challenges) and as a mum of a toddler. It meant planning a holiday which met the needs of different people, at different life stages, mobility and endurance levels.

I had to be flexible and open myself up to new experiences and just be prepared to ‘give it a go’. A particular joy was to travel with my daughter and to see the world through her eyes. Whilst we adults were enjoying the spectacle of a festival in Barcelona, my daughter, who loves animals, pointed out a small kitten under the stage; where we were looking at vast views on top of a mountain in Montenegro, our daughter spied a tiny brightly coloured red beetle on a rock; and where I was fretting about complying with airport security, she noticed the green nail polish on one of the security guards.

It was so refreshing to glimpse the simple joys through the eyes of my daughter, to be open to new experiences and to take on a different pace of life. For the first time in a very long time I was able to slow down and see the beauty in the most simplest of things. There is nothing more grounding in life than viewing the world through the eyes of a toddler.

When I opened my email inbox on Tuesday morning of my first day back in the office last week, apart from the shock of a full inbox (which I am still working through), it was wonderful to receive a number of emails welcoming me back from my trip and asking how it had been. Of course, there were also a myriad of emails and enquiries from staff and students with HR, financial and budget queries, OH&S audit outcomes, major project developments with Stage 2C, updates on annual maintenance programs that had taken place in my absence (like fume cupboard servicing, power shutdowns, biosafety cabinet servicing, etc.), as well as refurbishment project updates and workflow improvements. My work, which helps keep this complex and exciting research Institute running, has also allowed me to appreciate how people in all walks of life (even on holiday), are working hard in the background to keep the life we lead and enjoy going, without us even noticing.

Kirsty Turner
Manager, Research Support Services