Morag Hamilton, sample coordinator, Clinical Research Facility

Can you describe what you do day-to-day? Morag Hamilton

I currently split my time between the respiratory biobank and tissue governance. The respiratory biobank, or tissue bank, is a repository of biological samples that have been collected from patients, such as blood, urine and organ tissue, that can be used in research.

When I am biobanking I speak to patients, usually during their clinic appointments, but sometimes on the wards prior to surgery. I explain to them what the biobank is and why it’s important, and I ask if they’d like to play a part in research. I then go to theatre to collect fresh tissue samples for our research groups who are based at Imperial College London.

When I’m working for tissue governance, I’m conducting research audits to ensure our research is compliant with the Human Tissue Authority Standards, which places a big focus on consent, checking we have the right facilities and equipment and that everything is appropriately traceable.

Which part of your job is most challenging?

The practicalities of obtaining tissue samples from operating theatre is currently the most challenging aspect of my biobanking job. The Biobank relies on several departments to achieve our goal of obtaining fresh tissue samples for our researchers. This can pose quite a challenge for just a two-person team.

What is the best/funniest thing a patient has ever said to you?

I once met a patient in clinic who’d just come back from a holiday in Alcatraz! What she meant to say was Alicante!

Why did you decide to work in healthcare?

I’ve worked in private industry throughout most of my career, until I moved to London. I knew it would ultimately mean I was going to work within the NHS or a university research lab. When I lived in Ireland, I worked in a tissue bank, processing and distributing various kinds of human tissue, but someone else did the consenting side of things. I thought it might be nice to meet patients and chat to them about research and encourage them to play a part in the future of medicine. So, I suppose I just stumbled into healthcare.

What did you want to be when you were younger?

Funnily enough, I wanted to be a nurse until my mid-teens, when I developed a fascination for laboratory work.