Meet: Karen-Marie Heintz – NCMM’s new HSE Coordinator
Karen-Marie joined NCMM in September 2020. Previously she worked at Oslo's Radium Hospital, both as a researcher and as a health and safety representative.
Karen-Marie Heintz. Photo: NCMM
Can you tell me a bit more about what you were doing before you joined NCMM?
I have a Master’s degree in genetics and, for the past 20 years, I have worked at the Institute of Cancer Research at the Radium Hospital in Oslo. I spent a lot of time working at the Department of Tumor Biology in the group of Eivind Hovig, who has previously had some collaborations with NCMM researchers. Around 13 years ago, I became the safety representative for my department and then later on for the Institute; most recently I worked with former NCMM Director Kjetil Taskén on health and safety issues.
How do you think working at NCMM/UiO will compare to working with Oslo University Hospital?
It will certainly be different working with the University of Oslo. I think that within the university when it comes to health and safety issues, the focus is of course on teaching and research, whereas in the hospital research is almost treated as an afterthought. I also believe that it is easier to be part of the university environment if you do not speak Norwegian. It’s quite challenging to work in the hospital if you don't speak Norwegian as it is not such an international environment; the procedures, documents and so on are usually only in Norwegian and this can present a challenge for both an HSE coordinator and the staff as extra time has to be taken to ensure things are understood. This is of course also the same to some extent at UiO, but I think things are becoming a little more straightforward for non-Norwegian speakers.
What will your role at NCMM look like, and what are you most looking forward to?
I will take on part of Liv Alver Bjørland’s role after she retires, so I’ll be responsible for all health and safety-related issues. I’ll also be responsible for chemical safety, risk assessments, and for supporting the leadership with health and safety matters. In addition, I will work alongside the new NCMM Lab Manager, Edna. We have yet to decide who will work with what, but it will be nice to have a colleague who is also working in a similar area. I really look forward to being able to focus on one area and not having to always compromise between different roles as some of previous jobs have required.
Is there any way we can help you to ensure a safe work environment?
I hope that researchers undertake the mandatory courses provided to them, to help ensure things are running safely and smoothly in the labs and that they are on top of their HSE responsibilities. I also hope that if people are really unsure about something then they will come and ask me. Having an open environment where people can ask questions and feel supported is important. It sounds really simple but this, alongside proper training, can really help prevent accidents from happening.
Is there something about you that might surprise your new colleagues?
I love a good joke and am quite famous for my April fool's day jokes at my previous workplace...!