3 Common Misconceptions About Being a Food Laboratory Technician

Posted by Kea Schmuhl on Oct 23, 2017 9:35:00 AM

This month Cherney features Kea Schmuhl, one of our dedicated Sample Preparations Technicians who looks to clear up some of the misconceptions about working in a testing laboratory.  Thank you to Kea for her insight and unique perspective!
When people ask me what I do for a living and I say, “I’m a Sample Preparation Technician,” or work in a “Food Safety Testing Laboratory” they often make generalized assumptions. These thoughts tend to be based on the stereotypes they have seen on TV or read in a book portraying laboratory technicians.  However, quite a few of these assumptions are not the case when describing my role as a Sample Preparation Technician at Cherney.

  • Misconception One:  Being a lab tech is a sedentary job.
    This statement would most likely produce quite a few laughs from the laboratory teams.  A majority of people come to work with their “running shoes” on, so to speak. Disclaimer: Don’t worry!  There is no actual running in the lab (because that would be dangerous). It isn't uncommon for a lab technician to have 15,000+ steps a day. Whether it’s retrieving supplies, communicating with another department about a customer's samples, or simply traveling from the weigh stations to incubators with the prepared samples, there is nearly always a reason to be on the move.

  • Misconception Two:  Everyone needs a background in microbiological sciences to work in Sample Prep.
    It's easy to assume this would be the most important factor to work in a food microbiology lab. However, at Cherney, Sample Preparation technicians are taught everything they need to know to do their jobs based on a database of SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and MOAs (Methods of Analysis). The ability of a lab technician to read an MOA or SOP and correctly follow instructions is extremely important to ensuring accurate and consistent testing. A strong background in microbiology is irrelevant if a technician is unable to properly follow directions to perform a test to Cherney’s standards. However, this misconception cannot be completely discredited, as previous laboratory experience in microbiological sciences is very beneficial to understanding the “why’s” behind the “how’s” of a MOA or troubleshooting unique sample testing.

  • Misconception Three: We do the same thing every day.
    In one word – WRONG!   Every single day in Sample Prep is different from the last. It's nearly impossible to predict what a day will be like in advance. A technician may be able to predict what area of the department he or she will be working in based on the rotation schedule; however, even this rotation isn't set in stone. The lab could unexpectedly receive an abundance of samples to be tested (i.e if a customer is troubleshooting or in a crisis situation) and the need to redistribute technicians in the department based on the changing workload is required. There could also be unexpected setbacks or special projects that take more time and technicians than “routine” testing. Working in the lab requires a person to be flexible and constantly adjust plans based on priorities. The frequent changes keep the lab technicians on their toes and at their best!

If you’re looking for a change in your career or joining a company where what job you perform helps protect the food your family, friends and co-workers share, consider joining Cherney’s Team!  With nearly 30 years of experience and an unsurpassed reputation in the industry for being one of the best testing laboratories, an exciting future is ahead!
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Topics: Cherney Micro, employee engagement, Microbiology, Cherney Culture, Accurate Results, Company Culture, Test Results, Empowerment