University of Dundee

Karen Pope Q&A

Karen Pope, Dundee born and bred, is Personal Assistant to Professor Sir Mike Ferguson and Professor Paul Wyatt (Head of the Drug Discovery Unit, DDU). She also directly supports Professor David Gray and is the admin supervisor in the Division of Biological Chemistry and Drug Discovery (BCDD). Karen is now working from home.

What’s your typical day now and what was it like beforehand?

I am absolutely loving working from home, less people equal less stress.  The cats help out with work, so I've still got a team. I can wake up at 08.30 and be 'in work' by 08.35 - what's not to like? And, if it's nice, I work in the garden so more fresh air and sunshine. I feel much more relaxed!

The work is mostly the same as before - I check everyone's emails and diaries, make and move meetings around, make sure my Profs don't miss anything important that they need to answer. I have regular meetings with my line manager and my erstwhile team. There are only two of us now sharing the general admin where there used to be five, so I miss time with them all - don't tell them that though!

Before the lockdown, a big portion of some days was given to visits, external seminars and events as well as checking in with my team and my Profs in person. That human element has gone - the core job remains the same but with fewer moments of anxiety.

How does it feel to be able to support the scientists working on Covid-19?

I have always felt immensely proud to work in SLS - the dedication of our scientists is, to a layperson like me, totally mind blowing. Currently, Mike is working closely with SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) and has agreed to Chair the Scientific Advisory Board of the new Serology Taskforce; David is involved in the setting up and running of the Glasgow Lighthouse [labs], Paul is currently recruiting for a Team Leader to run a DDU COVID project. The very fact that our scientists are held in such high regard, both nationally and internationally, has always made my job a privilege. They work 7 days a week, 14 hours a day which shows how committed they are to make a difference, no matter what disease is sweeping the world. I stand in awe of them most days. Some days not so much!

What’s it like to work in the School of Life Sciences?

The wider team spirit has always been a lot of fun - there's a great sense of humour amongst us all in SLS and that really makes the job easier on the hardest of days.  BCDD are the biggest Division so the admin team have to work together closely, every day, to ensure events and visits go smoothly. You can't maintain that intimacy working from home and, we have regular catch up meetings via Teams. You also don't see the wider community of the School - you bump into numerous people on the way to the photocopier or in the Street Cafe.

What activities are you undertaking to de-stress?

I'm mostly drinking Prosecco. 

What can’t you wait to get back to once lockdown is lifted?

I'm going to miss Boston this Christmas, and, in this country, I want the Chanel and Dior counters to be open.  I want to drink cocktails.  I want a hairdresser. I want to buy handbags.  I'm fairly shallow, really!

Quick fire questions:

  • Tea or Coffee?  TEA
  • Morning or Afternoon? AFTERNOON
  • Animal Crossing or Tiger King? ANIMAL CROSSING