Transitioning from Classroom to Laboratory

The path from classroom learning to the board of certification exam can seem like a long one,some days, though it is getting shorter all the time for me. Three years of undergraduate classes, both general and science-focused, another six months of more intensive classes here at Mayo, and now clinical rotations bridge me into the final piece of my education.

The transition from the routine expectations of the classroom to the hyper-variability of a laboratory was a welcomed one.

It was a chance to finally apply the theories taught over years of lectures to concrete methodology, to see the truth of how a modern laboratory works.

From this perspective, I have witnessed the difference between what we are taught and what is used. For example, the use of MALDI-TOF mass spec in Bacteriology is wildly different than the tube-based biochemical examinations taught in college classrooms. The amount of automation across all of the laboratories is both impressive and intimidating. I often wonder if I shouldn’t be required to have a computer science minor to work here.

Not everything can be done by machines yet, though. My visit to the Mycology and Tuberculosis Laboratories showed me that technologists are still required for more than just machine maintenance and troubleshooting. Similarly, the Immunology Laboratory needed human readers for gel results, and Bacteriology had humans culturing, sorting, and working up tests.

While I wish I had been forewarned about the enormity of the transfer to automated methods sooner in my career path, I also still see some of what I came to this field for in the first place. Besides which, how much does the method matter, so long as the patient receives accurate and quality answers?

These weeks will be invaluable to those of us who intend to stay at Mayo Clinic, giving us a view of a number of laboratories and allowing us to evaluate where we might best fit. I know that I certainly have a lot to think about as interviews are approaching.


Montana Smith

Montana Smith is a student in Mayo’s MLS class of 2017 and will concurrently finish an undergraduate degree in Clinical Laboratory Science from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. Montana is a Rochester native and enjoys being back in Minnesota.