[Cytometry] FW: Teaching Flow Cytometry - Not Guilty!

Facs FACS at tcd.ie
Mon May 9 03:57:42 EDT 2011

It is not that I disagree with people's teaching experiences or user attitudes, it is just that I have so often come across so many users who have not had the benfit of sound basic flow cytometry principles. Usually happens where users learn from each other and pass on misinformation and weirdly their 'settings" and "live gates" to new users. This problem is mainly associated with institutes that do not have core facilities or those who do not understand the value of training in FCM. Most of these users will have no confidence in what they are doing because they know they do not get it.; and what can they do when 3 years into their projects they are told by someone like me that the flow cytometry is all wrong? and what can I do for them? Nothing. 
For many years now (and with a degree in education and training behind me) I have come to the conclusion that it is not the training that counts, it is focussing on what each individual user needs to learn ; i.e. a good foundation for them to build on and that enables them to embark on a lot of self-directed learning with a core facility providing support.  This works for me and believe or not confidence is all these users need to become really motivated.
I was a new user a long time ago; after leaving med lab science I was introduced to FCM by an expert like this: "these are red cells and these are green cells". I thought I understood the red cells (they were not erys),  but green cells? and he gave the impression that I should know so I did not dare ask. (silly me!). I eventually I armed myself with Howard's book and thank Howard for that. I still read it.
 I have made similar mistakes many times myself when training i.e. before I got wise I used to think that what was obvious to me was obvious to everybody else. This is how experts fail when teaching in their own domain. So all I am saying is that there are two sides to this issue.
Ann Atzberger
From: Nebe-Von-Caron, G [g.nebe-von-caron at alere.com]
Sent: 08 May 2011 17:00
To: Facs; cytometry at lists.purdue.edu
Subject: RE: [Cytometry] FW:  Teaching Flow Cytometry - Not Guilty!

Looks like you missed out a few words in Howards sentence. I don't think
anyone feels that people are not motivated. They tend to be highly
motivated usually for quite ethical reasons as most of them do science
and healthcare, but even greed can be a perfect motivator - but let's
better not go there - Howard said "motivated to think". If anything
hasn't changed over the millennia it is our willingness and wanting to
believe in miracles and magic. A flow cytometer can provide for this
urge as the complexity within and the complexity of the output looks
indeed like magic. That we want the technology to do the work for us is
only normal, after all that's why we invent technology. The problem is
that we seem to let the technology also do the thinking for us. This is
where it can become a problem. We become a generation of technology
believers as it is made to look so easy. But how can you expect someone
to question their science if they do not understand the underlying
technology? Combinations of antibodies are not limited to fluorochromes
and bandpass selection. That is part of it but you need to think much
further than that and that is the beauty of science, it's always more
complex than you think it is. This is actually the beauty of the beast.

If the politicians in charge of schools and learning would only
understand biology it would be nice. They tend to believe that in order
to produce good pupils / students we must all give them a curriculum and
the same words so they all will be able to regurgitate the same things
to be checked in a test. It misses out on the fact what cytometry tells
us explicitly: diversity, that students have different ways how they
learn and what they make out of the information. As Bill said, best
thing is to try to understand what makes your student tic and tailor
your teaching accordingly. That works well in individual tuition but
becomes a problem in bigger classes where you do not have the chance to
do this type of analysis or can't group people accordingly. Thus you
have to think what sparks peoples curiosity or what helps to make sure
that the information given out is retained. For that it is important to
understand how the human brain works, particular the differences between
Men's Brain Women's Brain

Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. So to add the emotional element
you best add your enthusiasm about your subject as you will be much
better in making the subject loof fun. This is also a great motivator
for further learning as it inspires people to find their own thing they
find most interesting. It's a bit like "I'll have what she's having".
And the thing that is so outstanding in the cytometry community, that
makes me so proud of being a cytometrist, is the fact that we are all
people who tend to care. In a nutshell you could say

"Cytometrists do it with passion"

Gerhard Nebe-von-Caron
Research Scientist and Biomedical Engineer
From: Facs
Sent: 07 May 2011 11:49
To: Howard Shapiro
Subject: RE: [Cytometry] Teaching Flow Cytometry - Not Guilty!

I am sorry but I do not agree with your sentiments and others that the
majority of new users are not motivated. People learn in different ways
and having negative preconceived notions about new users (i.e.
stereotyping) is not a good position for a new trainer to launch from.
(sorry about the grammar)
It might even be worthwhile hearing about user learning experiences.

Ann Atzberger
Flow Cytometry Facility
Institute of Molecular Medicine
Trinity Health Sciences: St James Hospital
Trinity College Dublin
Dublin 8 Ph. 0035318963055
From: Howard Shapiro [hms at shapirolab.com]
Sent: 06 May 2011 23:42
To: flow list Purdue flow list Purdue (cytometry at lists.purdue.edu)
Cc: Till Dettmering; Facs; Hirschkorn,  Dale
Subject: RE: [Cytometry] Teaching Flow Cytometry - Not Guilty!

 Ann Atzberger and Dale Hirschkorn seemed to think I was putting Till
 Dettmeringdown 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

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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