I have worked at Saint Luke's Hospital on the Plaza as a Clinical Lab Scientist for almost five years now. I started out working the graveyard shift (11pm-9am) as a lab generalist, but that lasted all of three months, and I then I moved to working the evening shift (1pm-11:30pm) as a generalist in the STAT lab (doing all testing for the ER) which lasted about a year, and then I was hired into the Flow Cytometry department (if you're interested in what Flow really is, go to this Wikipedia page) on the evening shift where I am currently working doing leukemia and lymphoma testing, HIV testing, stem cell testing for bone marrow transplants, and clinical trial testing for companies like Quintiles and Pfizer.
On Tuesday of this week we moved into a brand new laboratory! This is a really huge deal because a new lab has been talked about since the beginning of time, and our department is the only department to get new space built (there is a lot more politcal office b.s./drama that I am not telling here, I am just happy I was in the department that gets the new stuff).
Here is our new space:
I'm too embarrased to show you our old space because 1) it is less than half the size of this area, and 2) it looks like it was built in the 60's (because it really was, and it has never been updated or thoroughly cleaned). You can see my co-worker (Shanon) hard at work figuring out some crazy disease at one of our two instrument work stations.
Here is a close up of our main instrument that we use for testing (the Flow Cytometer):
We have two of these and they cost about $800,000 each (not to mention all the reagents that we use, some of which cost $1000 per bottle), but somehow we still manage to be the one of the departments that makes the most money for the lab.
The guts of the Flow Cytometer:
This instrument actually uses two lasers (encased in the black shroud at the top of the instrument) and 11 fluorescence detectors (the black circular things in the middle of the instrument) to analyze cells in a processed sample and determine all of it's different characteristics (size, shape, granularity, surface proteins, etc.) so that we can then categorize what type of cells are in the sample and what disease (or not) a person has.
The most important piece of the instrument- the Flow Cell:
The cells are pushed into the Flow Cell with pressurized fluid, in single-file, through the needle-like object and pass through the red and blue lasers (coming from the left of the flow cell) to be analyzed. This contraption is actually filled with fluid and if any air gets in there, the cells no longer pass through the lasers in a straight, single-form line, and our data gets messed up.
Here's what the data looks like after a sample runs through the instrument (each dot on the screen represents one cell):
I take this data and interpret the information and tell the pathologist if a patient has disease or not, and if so, what type of disease they have (acute lymphocytic leukemia, non-hodgkin's lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, plasma cell leukemia, hairy cell leukemia, etc.)
This is where I prepare all of my samples to be run on the Flow Cytometer:
The types of samples I work with are blood, bone marrow, and tissue (lymph nodes, skin, stomach, etc.).
Our view from one of three giant windows in our new space overlooking Mill Creek Park near the Plaza:
Most people reading this blog post work in cubicles, so I thought it would be interesting to share what it's like not to work in a cube. I hope you enjoyed the tour!