We are delighted to announce that, once again, science staff at APHA have been recognised in the New Year Honours list. This year, we congratulate Samira Ahmad, Colin Weaver and Lynne Bradley on their awards. Hear more about each of our awardees and their reactions in our first blog of 2021.
Samira Ahmad, Assistant Scientific Officer, has been awarded a BEM (Medallist of the Order of the British Empire) for her services to animal health and welfare during her career at APHA, currently standing at 21 years, and more recently in public health to support the Covid-19 response. The award also acknowledges her voluntary work with the local community and mosque in Woking, Surrey.
“I have been blown away by all of the support, warm congratulations and love my friends, colleagues and family have sent me. Working at APHA has given me the possibility to help the community during outbreaks and in normal circumstances, both local and international. I hope to continue providing my contributions towards the local community and APHA. Thank you to everyone who has believed in me and given me this platform.”
Samira Ahmad, Assistant Scientific Officer, APHA
Samira has been a key worker in Surveillance and Laboratory Services at the APHA Weybridge site since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
While many scientific staff at APHA were relocated to work at the national testing centre for coronavirus in Milton Keynes, Samira continued to work at Weybridge where she focused her efforts on ensuring APHA’s laboratory services for animal health continued as usual.
Samira has also been part of the team working shifts to test samples from across NHS Surrey and Berkshire and then wider as capacity increased.
During her time working at APHA, Samira’s laboratory testing role has contributed to the health and welfare of farmed animals, and supported international trade and food safety. She has also been part of the Disease Emergency Response team ready to deliver the critical testing required to ensure the UK is free of disease and can trade.
Over the years, Samira has supported, trained and mentored many colleagues. Alongside this she has enhanced wider cultural understanding in the teams she has worked with, sharing her beliefs and cultural celebrations.
Samira has an active role in her local community, cooking for her local mosque and church, and others who need support in times of need.
She has been involved in organising inter-faith conventions at Woking and was involved in establishing a memorial to people who were instrumental in building the mosque at Woking in the 19th Century, the first purpose-built mosque in Britain. She also volunteers for a project restoring graves at her local cemetery.
Colin Weaver, Surveillance Support Assistant, was awarded a BEM for 50 years of service to science and protecting animal health, such as supporting the response to BSE, scrapie and the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 2001. He was also commended for his voluntary work protecting wildlife and sharing his scientific expertise with the local school and science community.
“My reactions to this award were - shock, pride and a feeling of humbleness. Shock – because I had no idea or expectation that I had been nominated for an honour. Proud and humbled – because it was the colleagues who I work with (plus one or two others) who nominated me for the award. I have hopefully thanked them all personally or by email but if I have missed anyone, thank you, it is a pleasure to work with you all and a wonderful way to celebrate my 50 years of service.”
Colin Weaver, Surveillance Support Assistance, APHA
Colin began his career with the Agency in 1970 when he joined the former Veterinary Investigation Centre (VIC) in Thirsk. He subsequently completed his degree in Microbiology at Newcastle University and developed his laboratory knowledge working at APHA Thirsk, Newcastle and Weybridge.
During his time at Weybridge, Colin had a key role in various scientific trials including a research study on the emergence of Salmonella hadar in ducks; an area of concern for public health.
During his time at Thirsk, Colin was appointed Head of the Bacteriology laboratory before taking over responsibility for the histology laboratory; leading a team who were involved in the BSE and scrapie scientific projects.
He is a named author of a retrospective study on atypical scrapie providing evidence of its existence in the UK since at least 1987. He has contributed to further published papers on other scientific subjects and has worked on wildlife monitoring projects collating data for APHA.
During the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 2001, Colin volunteered to go on detached duty to the Institute for Animal Health (former The Pirbright Institute) to share his laboratory experience and manage a team working on serological testing. At the peak of the outbreak this team increased to 28 people, testing up to 8000 individual blood samples a day. It also meant a long period of time away from his family.
Outside work, Colin is a keen ambassador on the protection of natural habitats. He is an avid bird watcher and active member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and has used his voluntary days to complete surveys and take part in field studies of local wild plants; recently tracking a rare orchid.
Colin is recognised for his passion to share his expertise and love of science with others, and has given many talks to the local veterinary and farming community. He has also worked with his local secondary school to share his knowledge on bacteriology and scientific equipment to help provide them with interesting and fulfilling lessons.
Lynne Bradley, Senior Plant Health and Seeds Inspector has been awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for her services to plant health as the UK’s leading expert on potato seed certification, and laying the ground work for the development of the eDOMERO database used to monitor and record all plant health activity.
“I am absolutely thrilled to receive an OBE. My nomination came as a great surprise and after 37 years working in this fascinating job it’s a wonderful way to top off my career.
During my career, I have been very fortunate in the opportunities that have come my way. When I started there was no IT and being given a remit to develop our first database was both amazing and very absorbing.
Seed potato certification has also been totally fascinating and there is always something new to get to grips with. But what is really special about working on plant health is the amazing support from colleagues, the shared enthusiasm for the work and the encouragement I had from some exceptional mentors in my early days. So an award through nomination by my colleagues is very special as have been the warm congratulations they have sent me. So I am very proud and my family are too.”
Lynne Bradley, Senior Plant Health and Seeds Inspector, APHA
For the last 37 years Lynne has dedicated her career to advancing and enhancing UK plant health.
She has established herself as the UK’s leading expert for potato seed certification and as a national and international ambassador for plant health. Since 2012 she has been the principal executor for England and Wales for the UK Seed Potato Classification Scheme. This certifies all UK seed potato production ensuring it is fit for agricultural and domestic sale.
Under Lynne’s direct leadership the scheme produces over 4,000 ha of seed annually in England and Wales, representing a market value of c£50 million per annum. Over the last five years, government inspection of the scheme has become fully self-financing and has seen the sector grow by 17.5%.
Underlying this work is Lynne’s oversight of Defra’s eDOMERO database which annually monitors and records over 150,000 import and inland inspections. The system also provides records for charging and accurate time recording and feeds into other government systems.
Lynne helped to develop the foundations of this system in the 1980s when she developed the first database which the PHSI used to record details of their work in eradicating quarantine pests. She has continued to lead on reporting and interpreting data which is generated by the system. The output from this database has been essential over the last two years for EU exit modelling across Government linked to the movement of plants and plant products.
During her career she has also been the senior delivery manager for Wales and the West Midlands and a significant champion for the development of women leaders. She has also given up her own time to develop and mentor others, passing on her skills and knowledge to the next generation.
Lynne was due to retire in September 2020, but has extended her time with APHA to support colleagues during this very busy time for the Agency.
Chris Hadkiss, APHA Chief Executive congratulated Samira, Colin and Lynne on their accolades:
“I’m delighted to see their outstanding work and range of achievements celebrated. Their awards are a credit to them and the Agency, recognising our valuable contribution to protecting both animal health and plant health.”
Chris Hadkiss, APHA Chief Executive