Research Technician 1969 – 2011, Practicals Teaching Technician 2011-16
Vivienne Wilkins joined the Department of Human Anatomy in 1969, right after finishing her A Levels. She began work as a Junior Technician, spending three years preparing histology slides and assisting with the medical classes. She then became a Research Technician supported by a number of grants, first under Rhodes Scholar Dr Murray Jamieson and Professor George Fink, a neuro endocrinologist. She spent six years on a wide range of projects requiring a number of specialist techniques, including radio immune assays (RIAs) and hand drawing graphs and diagrams for slides and publications. After Professor Fink left the Department for Edinburgh, she spent two years in the Laboratory of Physiology as Histology Technician to Professor Colin Blakemore.
Following a career break, Wilkins returned to the Department of Human Anatomy in 1988 (counted as continual service by the University) to work for Dr Aviva Tolkovsky for five years supporting her research on apoptosis and cell death on cultured neurones. Following Dr Tolkovsky’s departure to Cambridge, Wilkins worked for Dr Harry Charlton for around seven years where she added many new techniques to her repertoire, including PCR, sequencing and immunohistochemisty. The Department merged with the Genetics Laboratory while she was working with Dr Charlton. She then worked with Professor Kate Storey on her © Vivienne Wilkins with Dr Tomoko Watanabe in the Srinivas Labdevelopmental biology projects for a year, before joining the new lab of Professor Shankar Srinivas in 2005, just before the Department of Human Anatomy and Genetics and the Laboratory of Physiology was merged to create the single Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics in 2006. Professor Srinivas said: “I was fortunate to have Viv as the first member of my group when I started in the Department. Having someone of her skill and experience (not to mention her sense of humour!) made a tremendous difference in getting the lab up and running."
In 2009, Wilkins joined the lab of Professor Kay Davies for two years to work on a project to find a drug to increase levels of utrophin for the therapy of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and primarily working with Aurelie Goyenvalle. According to Professor Davies: “Viv’s role required top level analytical skills to analyse muscle biopsies taken from the mdx mouse, the animal model of the disease. We were collaborating with Summit Therapeutics and needed speed and efficient working to get the drug to the clinic. Viv played a big part in the group, always willing to help out others. She worked fast and was very thorough. But on top of that she was a joy to have in the lab, friendly, caring and someone you could talk to.”
In 2011, Wilkins was employed by the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics to join the Physiology Teaching team as Practicals Teaching Technician and record the standard operating procedures for all the physiology classes. It was a major task as all classes were recorded on the main departmental drive to be accessed by all the teaching staff, taking a year to complete and regular updates. According to Professor Srinivas: “She made a big difference in systematically documenting all the set up and running of the equipment for practicals for the medics”. Wilkins also became deputy Department Biological Safety Officer and the Department Radiation Protection Supervisor. She retired in 2016.