How To Train Your Personnel

ExCyte chooses to train people in flow cytometry because we know what it’s like to feel the pain of ruined experiments. No one enjoys wasting thousands of dollars on reagents and priceless amounts of instrument and personnel time. This is especially true when grant funding comes into play. No one wants to miss out on a grant simply because the technology is too complex to master alone in a vacuum.

How much time, money and resources are wasted by half-trained individuals trying to operate complex cytometers sold as pushbutton washing machines? Every vendor sells the dream that their instrument can be run by anyone. And to a point, this dream is true. Any monkey can be trained to push buttons in the proper sequence. And surely a thousand monkeys can get it right eventually.

For too many people, learning flow cytometry is like playing the game “Telephone.” Someone starts a story about how the instrument should be run, then they tell that story to someone else, who tells it to a third person, and so on. Eventually, the story bears no resemblance to the original. This is a subpar way to learn how to use a complex piece of equipment that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more.

Most flow cytometers, imaging cytometers, and related instruments require operators with a background of biology and the mechanics of how the instrument works, not to mention which software to use and how. Even instruments that can be run by Graduate students and other untrained personnel benefit from the oversight of a trained operator. And encouraging these students to learn more about the field of flow cytometry is important to their scientific growth.

There are some things a color chart can’t teach you. Once you progress above 4-color flow, there are several complex variables to contend with. For example:

1. Knowing the difference between Tri-Color, Cy5-Pe and CyChrome (hint – there isn’t one)

2. Knowing why your APC signal is down on first tube (hint – could be residual bleach)

3. Knowing why FMO controls are important

4. Understanding proper treatment of compensation controls

5. How to setup and identify the proper voltage settings

6. Knowing whether or not you should save and reuse compensation settings (hint – you shouldn’t)

Proper training avoids waste of resources, time, and energy. Stop passing stories down from monkey to monkey. Instead, start educating your personnel professionally. This will make your lab more productive and competitive in the long run. You will also gain the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly what to do in any flow cytometry situation. Knowledge is power in this case. The power to succeed.

Join Expert Cytometry's Mastery Class
Tim Bushnell, PhD
Tim Bushnell, PhD

Tim Bushnell holds a PhD in Biology from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is a co-founder of—and didactic mind behind—ExCyte, the world’s leading flow cytometry training company, which organization boasts a veritable library of in-the-lab resources on sequencing, microscopy, and related topics in the life sciences.

Similar Articles

The Power Of Spectral Viewers And Their Use In Full Spectrum Flow Cytometry

The Power Of Spectral Viewers And Their Use In Full Spectrum Flow Cytometry

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

What photon from yonder fluorochrome breaks?  It is … umm… hmmm. Let me see. Excitation off a 561 nm laser, with an emission maximum of 692 nm. I’m sure if Shakespeare was a flow cytometrist, he might have written that very scene. But the play is lost in time. However, since the protagonist had difficulty determining what fluorochrome was emitting photons, let’s consider how this could be figured out. In my opinion, one of the handiest flow cytometry tools is the spectral viewer. This tool helps visualize the excitation and emission profile of different fluorochromes, as well as allowing you…

Fickle Markers: Solutions For Antibody Binding Specificity Challenges

Fickle Markers: Solutions For Antibody Binding Specificity Challenges

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

Reproducibility has been an ongoing, and important, concept in the sciences for years.  In the area of biomedical research, the alarm was sounded by several papers published in the early 2010’s.  Authors like Begley and Ellis, Prinz and coworkers, and Vasilevsky and colleagues, among others reported an alarming trend in the reproducibility of pre-clinical data.  These reports indicated between 50% to almost 90% of published pre-clinical data were not reproducible.  This was further highlighted in the article by Freedman and coworkers, who tried to identify and quantify the different sources of error that could be causing this crisis.  Figure 1,…

5 Common Flow Cytometry Questions, Answered

5 Common Flow Cytometry Questions, Answered

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

I want to thank all of you who send us your questions about flow cytometry, so I thought I would dip into the old email bag and answer a few of the common ones here.  If your question isn’t answered this time, look for it to be answered in a future blog post.  Of course, if you want us to cover a specific topic, drop us a line.  1. How Fast Can I Go? This is  a common question. The allure of the ‘hi’ button is hard to resist.  The faster you go, the sooner you are finished with data…

Combining Flow Cytometry With Plant Science, Microorganisms, And The Environment

Combining Flow Cytometry With Plant Science, Microorganisms, And The Environment

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

My first introduction to flow cytometry was talking to a professor who’d brought one on a research cruise to study phytoplankton. It was only later that I was introduced to the marvelous world that’s been my career for over 20 years.   In that time, I’ve had the opportunity to work with researchers in many different areas, exposing me to a wide variety of cell types and more important assays. What continues to amaze me is the number of different parameters we can measure, not just the number of fluorochromes, but the information we can extract from samples – animal, vegetable…

Common Numbers-Based Questions I Get As A Flow Cytometry Core Manager And How To Answer Them

Common Numbers-Based Questions I Get As A Flow Cytometry Core Manager And How To Answer Them

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

Numbers are all around us.  My personal favorite is ≅1.618 aka ɸ aka ‘the golden ratio’.  It’s found throughout history, where it has influenced architects and artists. We see it in nature, in plants, and it is used in movies to frame shots. It can be approximated by the Fibonacci sequence (another math favorite of mine). However, I have not worked out how to apply this to flow cytometry.  That doesn’t mean numbers aren’t important in flow cytometry. They are central to everything we do, and in this blog, I’m going to flit around numbers-based questions that I have received…

3 Must-Have High-Dimensional Flow Cytometry Controls

3 Must-Have High-Dimensional Flow Cytometry Controls

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

Developments such as the recent upgrade to the Cytobank analysis platform and the creation of new packages such as Immunocluster are reducing the computational expertise needed to work with high-dimensional flow cytometry datasets. Whether you are a researcher in academia, industry, or government, you may want to take advantage of the reduced barrier to entry to apply high-dimensional flow cytometry in your work. However, you’ll need the right experimental design to access the new transformative insights available through these approaches and avoid wasting the considerable time and money required for performing them. As with all experiments, a good design begins…

The Fluorochrome Less Excited: How To Build A Flow Cytometry Antibody Panel

The Fluorochrome Less Excited: How To Build A Flow Cytometry Antibody Panel

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

Fluorochrome, antibodies and detectors are important. The journey of a thousand cells starts with a good fluorescent panel. The polychromatic panel is the combination of antibodies and fluorochromes. These will be used during the experiment to answer the biological question of interest. When you only need a few targets, the creation of the panel is relatively straightforward. It’s only when you start to get into more complex panels with multiple fluorochromes that overlap in excitation and emission gets more interesting.  FLUOROCHROMES Both full spectrum and traditional fluorescent flow cytometry rely on measuring the emission of the fluorochromes that are attached…

Flow Cytometry Year in Review: Key Changes To Know

Flow Cytometry Year in Review: Key Changes To Know

By: Meerambika Mishra

Here we are, at the end of an eventful year 2021. But with the promise of a new year 2022 to come. It has been a long year, filled with ups and downs. It is always good to reflect on the past year as we move to the future.  In Memoriam Sir Isaac Newton wrote “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” In the past year, we have lost some giants of our field including Zbigniew Darzynkiwicz, who contributed much in the areas of cell cycle analysis and apoptosis. Howard Shapiro, known for…

What Star Trek Taught Me About Flow Cytometry

What Star Trek Taught Me About Flow Cytometry

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

It is no secret that I am a very big fan of the Star Trek franchise. There are many good episodes and lessons explored in the 813+ episodes, 12 movies (and counting). Don’t worry, this blog is not going to review all 813, or even 5 of them. Instead, some of the lessons I have taken away from the show that have applicability to science and flow cytometry.  “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.”  (ST:TNG season 5, episode 2) This is probably one of my favorite episodes, which involves Picard and an alien trying to establish a common ground and learn…

Top Technical Training eBooks

Get the Advanced Microscopy eBook

Get the Advanced Microscopy eBook

Heather Brown-Harding, PhD

Learn the best practices and advanced techniques across the diverse fields of microscopy, including instrumentation, experimental setup, image analysis, figure preparation, and more.

Get The Free Modern Flow Cytometry eBook

Get The Free Modern Flow Cytometry eBook

Tim Bushnell, PhD

Learn the best practices of flow cytometry experimentation, data analysis, figure preparation, antibody panel design, instrumentation and more.

Get The Free 4-10 Compensation eBook

Get The Free 4-10 Compensation eBook

Tim Bushnell, PhD

Advanced 4-10 Color Compensation, Learn strategies for designing advanced antibody compensation panels and how to use your compensation matrix to analyze your experimental data.