Tag Archives: microbiology

“Back to the Coalface”


I have just returned from a 5 week road trip across the USA with my wife and 5 children. What a trip! Lots of adventures were had. Sure, it was tiring and stressful on occasion (we got lost several times), but never dull. We saw a lot of places, experienced many different landscapes, and encountered lots of different people, the whole spectrum of American society. 

And at the end there was a nice sense of achievement in getting everybody across the country in one piece!

It was great to experience all the different cultures, the small towns (mostly pro-Trump!), the big cities, and the native Indian settlements, all interesting in their own way.

But the biggest culture shock of all has been coming back to work!

Back to my cubicle, back to signing out wound swabs, back to phone calls about multi-resistant urines, back to laboratory politics, back to emails and meetings….

It all seems a bit mundane after the US. Hopefully the motivation will come back in due course.

And who knows, I might even write about microbiology in my next post!



“The Sick Microbiologist”


It has been a tough couple of weeks, as I have been suffering from a nasty viral infection. I have been teetering for several days along the borderline between being able to work or staying in bed. Rightly or wrongly, I have been struggling into the lab, and for that I thank (or blame) my parents for instilling a strong work ethic in me.

Nevertheless it has very much been a case of energy conservation over the past couple of weeks. To facilitate this I have been doing the following:

  • Taking long coffee and lunch breaks. Getting out of the micro lab early.
  • Keeping the number and content of emails to an absolute minimum.
  • Ruthlessly declining all options and requests for ‘voluntary’ work/projects.
  • Keeping a low profile (for infection control reasons!)

And funnily enough, despite my compromised health, I have been keeping up, and quite easily as well.

It is amazing that we manage to ‘squeeze’ into an 8 hour working day what we should really be doing in 3 or 4, maybe even less…

Maybe I need to be sick more often…



“Do the Maths”


10 years ago, the average medical microbiology lab scientist or technician might expect to process 50 samples in a day.

10 years from now, with the help of automation and interpretative software, the same staff member will likely be processing upwards of 300 samples per day. For those who do molecular or infectious serology as opposed to bacteriology, it could well be many more.

Do the maths…

If you are thinking about going into microbiology training, you need to be very aware of this. Ask your peers about the numbers being trained on the course, and the likely number of job posts at the end of training. Look for transparency and honesty from the colleges and your career advisors. If this is your passion in life, by all means consider it, but be aware of how the discipline is going to change over the next decade.

If you are already in training or holding a post as a microbiology scientist/technician, then it is so, so important to supplement your skills: Show leadership qualities, do some research, get yourself IT savvy, learn how to troubleshoot automated systems. It all matters.

And if you work in a laboratory which is already highly automated, there is no room for complacency. The automation will inevitably increase further, and the interpretative software will become more sophisticated…

This new technology creates employment as well, but it is different employment. Designers, engineers, IT specialists and salespeople are all required for automated platforms.

And clinical microbiologists, like myself, are not immune from this evolution. (see this related post)

All we can do is be acutely aware of the changes that are taking place around us, and prepare ourselves as best we can for the future. We should be a little concerned by the above, but embrace the challenge nevertheless.

For a good article on this topic, click here. Things are changing so quickly, that already parts of this 2013 article are out of date….