Graduate Q&A: Beth Zolana (BSc Biology)

Having graduated with a Biology Degree in 2021, Beth Zolana now works as a Biomedical Associated Practitioner with the NHS.

One of the things Beth loves most about her job is the opportunity to work independently in a lab environment.

Biology Graduate Beth Zolana
Biology Graduate Beth Zolana

When you were 18, did you know what you wanted to do after University?

I was interested and had experience in teaching so I initially wanted to follow that route. 

What made you choose the career path you are on?

Up until my third year at university, I was still quite unsure what career path I wanted to take. Having had to do half of my degree during the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of the module assignments, field trips and workshops that would have helped me make a decision sooner, had to be cancelled or amended due to social distancing rules. This meant that I still felt a little unsure about what I wanted to do.

One thing I did know was that the pandemic had created a large number of laboratory-based jobs that were not in place beforehand. Laboratory experience was one of the main skill sets that I was missing, so I decided to have a look at entry level roles that were open to new graduates. I ended up being able to get a Band 3 role in a Covid-19 DHSC project which allowed me to gain enough lab experience to get my current Band 4 position.

What do you like most about your job?

About 90 per cent of the job is lone work. This was the one thing that made me nervous when I first started but it has grown to be the part that I love most, as it has allowed me to gain confidence in working independently in a hospital laboratory. 

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Q. What’s a typical working day for you?

My job requires me to be available to work from Monday to Sunday. The laboratory team is made up of 4 associate practitioners that share the morning and evening shifts throughout the week. The laboratory duties for the morning and evening shifts are slightly different.

Monday to Sunday morning shifts and Saturday and Sunday evening shifts are lone shifts. The morning shifts start at 7am where you are required to open the lab, set all the machines up to run and set everything up in the safety cabinet ready to start sample processing. The main job role for the morning shift is to process PCR tests for RSV, Influenza A&B, and now also SARS-Cov-2. The different mornings of the week also have different tasks that need to be carried out alongside sample processing e.g. Internal Quality Testing (IQAs), anemometer readings and ordering and distributing various different tests to wards.

Monday to Friday evening shifts have the same requirement for sample processing done in the mornings, but the shift ends with our laboratory close-down routine. However, there are two associate practitioners in for the afternoon shifts - one doing sample processing and laboratory maintenance in the main lab, and one doing telephoning for urgent blood test results in our other lab.

For telephoning, we are required to look at patient blood test results and identify anything that is out of range in the metabolic panel. If anything is identified to be severely out of range or above normal levels, we make calls to the corresponding wards to provide them with the results so they can treat the patient accordingly.

What can students do during their time at University to increase the chances of getting their dream job?

If you have an idea of what path you want to go down, make sure you read up on the entry requirements for the job and be conscious of the modules you pick so that you can make sure that they are modules that will help you gain experience in the right field. If you are wanting to do a laboratory based job, go for modules that have plenty of laboratory practicals as employers look for experience alongside your degree. If you are not quite sure, then it is always good going for the modules that you think you will enjoy. You can always mold the experience and knowledge you gain from them to fit the job role you are applying for. 


Q. Have you got any tips from your experience on how to smash the application and interview process?

If you want to go into a laboratory based job, get familiar with standard laboratory practices and the International Organization of Standardization’s standards (ISO’s standards). Interviews are heavily based on scenario questions and questions about the processes carried out in the job role you are applying for, in my case being PCR and RT-Lamp tests. 

Why did you want to study biological sciences at university and why Hull?

I did Biology at A Level and really enjoyed it, so I decided to go for a few open days and see what the biology program was like at different universities. I initially wanted to do Human Biology at university until I came to the University of Hull’s open day. What stood out to me from the Biology course at Hull is how broad it was. It offered modules such as the Principles of Genetics and Cellular Biology, while also having the option of zoology and marine biology based modules. They were topic areas that I had not had the chance to learn about when I was in sixth form, so I felt like having the opportunity to do them would potentially broaden my career options and allow me to truly figure out what biology career path I wanted to go down. 

If you had your time at University again, would you do anything differently?

I would hopefully take part in the field trips and workshops I missed out on due to the pandemic.

Q. How has your degree helped you in your career?

Biology Graduate Beth Zolana

My degree has helped me to get a job in the NHS. It’s a competitive healthcare system to get into so having a degree has helped me have the requirements to get a Band 4 role so soon after university. It has now also put me in a position where I can apply for Trainee Biomedical Scientist positions in order to get my IBMS and HCPC accreditation to progress further up the NHS Bands and potentially become a specialist in the future. The scientific writing skills I gained from doing my degree have also helped me take part in medical research. Work from my team was presented at the 32nd European congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. 

Do what you love, or do what pays the most? What do you think?

Absolutely do what you love. Yes, we live in a society where making money is very important but there’s an added bonus when you get paid to do what you love. 

Biology Graduate Beth Zolana
Biology Graduate Beth Zolana

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