[Cytometry] Teaching Flow Cytometry - Not Guilty!

Howard Shapiro hms at shapirolab.com
Fri May 6 18:42:05 EDT 2011

 Ann Atzberger and Dale Hirschkorn seemed to think I was putting Till Dettmering down in my reply to his original post; nothing of the sort. Till established himself as one of the good guys; he was asking about others' experience and, in mine, one of the big problems in the field overall is now that there seem to be fewer and fewer people as well motivated as Till and the new students he is mentoring.
I suspect cytometry is not the only field in which this is happening, but it is the field in which I am most interested in reversing the trend.

As I have pointed out in previous postings, there are around 4,000 people reading this Mailing List, and recent editions of my flow book have sold about 5,000 copies each, although there are presumably a fair number of downloads of the 4th Edition. There are probably at least 35,000 flow cytometers out there; nothing like that number of people are likely to have taken intensive training courses in their use. Many of the investigators who have brought in the big money that paid for their fancy apparatus take it for granted that the people they hired to run it are experts, but they can't really tell. 

I have no idea how to solve that big problem. Right now, though, we also need to help people who are motivated get the information they need to make optimal use of and take optimal care of the instruments they have. The manufacturers could certainly be helpful with this, even if they don't want to invest more time and money preparing educational materials. They know which institutions have which machines and, in many if not most cases, who is using the apparatus and what types of analyses are being done. As I have sung, "there's no people like flow people." By and large, users are nice, and like to pass on helpful information they have acquired. There's a lot of it in the Mailing List archives; it could be made more accessible and more useful if small groups of users collected and indexed what was relevant to different instrument types.

Methodology, i.e., how to prepare, stain, and analyze cells, usually finds its way into the literature; how to do things on specific machines does not, and that's the information that needs to be made more accessible to get new users up to speed faster. It would also be helpful to get people working on less common applications of the technology together so only a few have to make each of the mistakes that can and will be made along the way.


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