Guest Blog: Making the most of Micro

Blog by Salisa Hudson, MA


I miss saying “Hi, My name is Salisa and I am your lab technician. That means it is my job to ensure you have all the materials you need within the course to have a successful lab experience.” If you have walked into any of the three microbiology courses: Bio 201: General Microbiology, Bio 44: Food and Microbiology and Bio 45: Microbiology and Professional Studies; you have indeed met me and heard the beginning of the safety speech. I have worked in Queens College (QC) Biology Department as the microbiology laboratory technician for about eight years now. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I haven’t been on campus in a full-time capacity for an entire year. This time at home has allowed me to reflect and I wanted to share my experience of being non-instructional faculty. This blog post will give you the student body some tips and tricks of mastering the microbiology lab courses here at QC.

First, it is a must to come to every class prepared. This is essential for most college courses but, exponentially more important for this wet lab course. Microbiology coursework is similar to the responsibilities of my position in that, its high level detailed work which requires a large amount of time-consuming labor. Therefore, the key to acing the required lab portion of this course is time management. It is essential to have your time planned out and a concise step-by-step guide for the lab is extremely helpful. Not having read up on the labs you are responsible for that day is the sure fire way to fail at time management. Please don’t assume that you can use class time to conduct your primary once over of the experiment. This is a bad idea for two reasons: the first is that it’s uncommon for one to get enough understanding of an experiment to perform efficiently having only read it once. The second is now you are wasting crucial class time, which has been instituted for getting the experiments done. Also, your instructor may be presenting valuable information not provided on the PowerPoint slides during lecture. When exam time comes, you don’t want to be working with a deficit of pertinent information.

Next, your safety is largely your responsibility. Having been in the teaching classroom as both an adjunct lecturer and a lab technician, I have seen a fair share of preventable accidents. It is very easy to get so consumed by the classroom, scientific equipment, your colleagues, etc.; that safety is no longer a priority. Safety is part of preparedness in a microbiology lab. We must know, understand, and respect all posted safety protocols and procedures. Most importantly, I can’t emphasize this enough, you must take them seriously! Although, we have heard “NO FOOD CONSUMPTION” in every lab we have ever stepped foot into there, there is somehow always Starbucks caramel mocha lattes or Dunkin Donuts in the trash can at the end of the day. I won’t go too in depth, however, handling 10 milliliters of Escherichia coli or Staphylococcus aureus has never complemented anyone’s snack time. In the lab space, spills on the countertops, floors, equipment and carelessness around open flames are recipes for disaster. It has happened more times than I can count. Success in a microbiology lab goes hand in hand with taking all safety precautions. If you spend enough time in a lab you may get a bruise, bump, or ruined item of clothing however, inevitability and stupidity are very different situations.

This brings me to my final point: Work with Purpose. Working with a purpose is both motivating and exhilarating. When I am beginning the prep for the week on Monday (sometimes Saturday or Sunday, lol), my purpose is to ensure the classes run smoothly and conclude with exceptional lab results. That motivates me to push through the preparation of one thousand agar plates, fifteen hundred tubes of media and the multitude of repetitive work that must be completed for that week alone. Truthfully, the final product of a workweek executed flawlessly is always exhilarating to me. A great week has been one success lab after the next. Long days that begin at 7am and end at 11pm are over and the work purpose has been served. So, at the begin of every semester, establish that your purpose in this course to learn as much as you can about Microbiology, earn an A, and to bring your GPA up. Then you will come prepared and work hard in a safe manner that will result in you getting an end result you can be proud of. I will end the same way I end the safety talk of each and every microbiology wet lab with this wish, “Whatever year you are currently in, or whatever course you take….I hope you all get A’s.”

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