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Head of OU lab wins prestigious international award for excellence

The Head of the OU’s Laboratory Facilities, Julia Barkans, has won an international award in ‘Excellence in Lab Leadership’.

Lab Manager’s Leadership Excellence Awards serve to recognise individuals who demonstrate exceptional leadership and management skills within their scientific organisations.

The Leadership Excellence Awards programme was launched by Lab Manager in 2022. The competition invited industry professionals to nominate themselves or their colleagues, to recognise the hard work and dedication to their role as a lab manager.

Entrants were asked to demonstrate the success of their staff and organisation, and how the nominated lab manager played a starring role in that success. A panel of industry leaders consisting of laboratory managers and leadership personnel analysed each entry and selected the five that offered the best evidence of an effective lab leader.

Julia is responsible for the lab infrastructure, managing the budget to run and maintain it, overseeing the all-important Health & Safety and managing 63 technical staff.

On the win and what makes a good leader, Julia said:

“I was absolutely delighted. I am so honoured to have been nominated for this award by my team.

“A good leader should lead by example. They should be enthusiastic, have integrity, empathy and always be inclusive. They should review process, however, not make changes for the sake of change. They will seek advice from the team and admit if they get something wrong. They will notice talent and nurture it. They will continually motivate and have pride in the team they have developed or are in the process of developing.

“In adopting this practice, a good leader can direct, guide, and influence the behaviours they expect in others.”

The OU has about 190 labs located throughout various buildings across the campus. In addition, there are mechanical engineering and electrical workshops, glasshouses, field sites, composting sheds, a ‘Mars Yard’, observatory and OpenSTEM labs used for onsite and remote teaching.

Julia and the other award winners will be honoured during the 2022 Leadership Summit in Baltimore, US, on 16–18 May, where they will accept their awards in front of a community of their peers.

Julia was presented her award at The Open University campus by Kerri Mack from Lab Manager on Thursday 5 May 2022, accompanied by Nick Braithwaite, Executive Dean of the STEM faculty and Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor of the OU.

Kerri Mack said:

“As one of the judges on the panel I was so impressed with the diligence that Julia has clearly shown and her leadership. And that’s what really stood out, the difference between leadership and management. And that you inspire the people around you.

“I don’t want anyone to recognise this as anything other than what is it as an international award in Julia’s ability to lead safe laboratories.

“It was well earned and although the award talks about much deliberation, for Julia’s particular award, there wasn’t any. She was a very clear winner. Congratulations Julia.”

Scott Hanton, Editorial Director, Lab Manager, said:

“Lab Manager is very pleased to present you with the Excellence in Lab Leadership award as part of our inaugural Leadership Excellence Awards competition. There were many qualified entrants, and after significant deliberation, our panel of judges selected you [Julia] as the best example of leadership from the pool of contestants. 

“Our readership represents leaders working in a wide variety of laboratory types, industries and sizes, and leaders who manage a small team with limited budget or a robust team with many stakeholders – the common thread is individuals such as yourself who go above and beyond to ensure the success of their staff and their organisation’s mission.”

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