[Microbiology] Re: Want to join this milis

Larry Farrell via microbio%40net.bio.net (by farrlarr from isu.edu)
Thu Apr 30 21:40:29 EST 2009

John Gentile wrote:
> The true microbiologists are a rare breed indeed! I remember having a 
> full compliment of sera for both Salmonella and Shigella, but as Judy 
> says, it got too expensive and we relegated typing to the state.
> Technology cannot truly replace an experienced microbiologist, and the 
> techs today look more to technology to give them answers. So to answer 
> Tri, you can't take shortcuts and rely too much on technology.

Not to be completely Luddite, but there is a fine line between doing 
what the kit says and knowing what the kit results (and everything else 
about the kit) mean.  Unfortunately, way too many people these days know 
only how to use the kit, according to directions in most cases, with 
absolutely no understanding of what the kit actually does or why/how it 
does it.  This doesn't apply just to the clinical or technical lab but 
to virtually all of microbiology/molecular biology.  It is sort of like 
teaching to the test (which is another pet peeve of mine); it really 
doesn't make any difference whether or not the student/employee has any 
knowledge of the background of the kit, as long as they can shove sample 
in one end and get data out the other.

In my personal case, I well remember learning electron microscopy on an 
Hitachi HU-11A, where the electron gun and lenses had to be aligned by 
hand and focusing was highly dependent on direct observation of 
diffraction fringes.  Knowing how to do all that was probably an issue 
in my getting the job at Idaho State, where they had just purchased an 
Hitachi HU-11B and had no one who knew how to run it.  Later, the HU-11B 
was replaced with a Zeiss EM9, which does pretty much everything 
automatically, and we rapidly began to turn out students who could do 
the sample preparation and get pictures that gave good data with 
essentially no knowledge of how the machine operated (no matter how much 
you preach about operational functions, if they don't have to actually 
do the operations, the students dump that information pretty quickly).

Ah, we are all going to Hell in a handbasket!!

Larry D. Farrell, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Microbiology
Idaho State University

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