When your Mom is cooler than you…

Happy National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week! Today I am introducing you to a STEM professional who is a big reason why I am a STEM professional myself…my Mom! She does incredibly fun stuff in the lab that I do not understand at all (She’s a biology science type, and I’m more the mechanical/machines science type). I asked her to share a little bit about what she does and was once again reminded why I am so inspired by her.



Lisa Southern

BA Biology/Medical Technology, Humboldt State University

Clinical Laboratory Scientist Senior, Microbiology


What is your current job, and what does it entail? What has your career looked like so far?

Currently I work as a Microbiologist in a hospital clinical lab. Basically, I read bacterial cultures to identify pathogens and to set up and interpret susceptibility panels.

I have been a Licensed Medical Technologist for 34 years.  Working in Chemistry, Hematology and Blood Bank has changed dramatically over the years. They are very different than Microbiology.  The former have highly sophisticated instrumentation, computer technology and a great deal of automation. Microbiology, for the most part is still very hands-on.  That is changing rapidly with the Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time of flight (MALDI TOF) technology and BD Keistra systems.

What is your favorite part about your job/field? Do you have a favorite moment in your career?

Staph aureus

My favorite part is seeing really cool organisms under the Microscope.  I love reading plates and picking colonies for work up. Staph aureus and beta strep are so cool on a blood agar plate.  Likewise, greening or metallic Pseudomonas is pretty to look at.  Years ago, when I worked in Virology, I enjoyed reviewing virology cultures because I could see the cytopathic effect on the cell lines as the virus took over.  Direct Florescent Antibody stains under a fluorescent scope is also awesome. There is a whole other world under a microscope.

I can’t pick just one favorite moment.  Working at the State Lab afforded me some incredible education opportunities. I was able to go to the Centers for Disease Control for a Mycobacteriology workshop and I attended several CDC workshop weeks for various Microbiology disciplines. Working on the Swine flu outbreak as it was occurring was exciting as were Select Agent Investigations.  By far though, I like the satisfaction of helping patients in the more real time situation of a clinical lab.

Susceptibility testing of Strep pneumoniae using E-Test and an oxacillin disk


How did you get involved in a STEM career? Did you pursue it or stumble upon it by chance? 

I love the outdoors and originally wanted to be a Forestry major.  Humboldt State’s forestry major was full so I registered as a Biology major expecting to change to Forestry as soon as possible.  In the meantime a friend showed me Wright’s stained white blood cells under the microscope.  I was hooked. To this day I still find one of the prettiest things under the lens are WBCS stained on a peripheral smear.

Did you always enjoy STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) related school subjects or hobbies?

I have always enjoyed the outdoors, biology, the science of living things.

What would you say to encourage students to pursue a STEM degree such as yours?

I would encourage anyone who likes life sciences to investigate a career in Laboratory Science.  We need more Licensed Medical Technologists in the field.  With the growing need for health care you are bound to always have an opportunity to work.  My license has served me well.

For more information about working as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist or other Laboratory Professional go to www.ascp.org.


Is your mom cooler than you are? Leave a comment and tell me about it! Also, if you have any questions for Lisa, please let me know and I will send them her way to get some answers for you.


One Comment Add yours

  1. I read this paragraph fully about the comparison of most up-to-date and earlier technologies, it’s amazing article.


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