An OU technician has been honoured as “truly inspiring” in this year’s Times Higher Education Awards.
Dr Barbara Kunz, a research project officer (technician) at The Open University’s Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics has won the Outstanding Technician of the Year category.
Presented last night (Thursday 28 November) at a ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, Dr Kunz beat off competition from seven other shortlisted universities to be crowned winner of the category.
Geochemist Barbara Kunz was, the judges decided, the “stand-out nomination” in the new award category, which aims to highlight the vital role of technicians in teaching, research and knowledge transfer.
The judges said: “Theoretical and practical expertise, and exceptional outreach activities, make Barbara a truly inspiring technician.”
Dr Kunz is working on a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded project From arc magmas to ore systems (FAMOS), and is fundamental in enabling the world-leading group of scientists driving the consortium to undertake cutting-edge geochemical analyses at the OU mass spectrometry laboratory. Dr Kunz’s main role is to support other researchers in performing geochemical analyses, to prepare samples, to develop new analytical techniques and generally to manage the project.
Watch the video for a day in the life of Dr Kunz in the lab:
The judges also praised Dr Kunz’s work to empower students to take care of their mental health, and her relentless pursuit of the highest-quality data. They also highlighted a comment from one of her colleagues, who said: "Barbara seamlessly switches between the roles of academic, teacher and technical staff.”
On receiving the award, she said:
“I am really honoured to have won the Outstanding Technician of the Year award in the first year it was awarded. Thanks to the judges for selecting me as the winner especially with such strong and brilliant competition from the other shortlisted candidates.
“Thanks to the Times Higher Education and the Technician Committee for creating and sponsoring a category where the often behind-the-scenes work of technicians in higher education can be honoured and celebrated.
A massive thank you to The Open University and the people I have the privilege to work with at the OU, to Dr Frances Jenner who nominated me as well as those who support me externally within the FAMOS consortium. They provide me with opportunities and challenges to be at my best and continue to develop as a technician, researcher, teacher as well as a person. “