How To Get A Flow Cytometry Job In 5 Steps

Flow cytometry is a powerful technique impacting both clinical and research.

If you’re looking for a career, flow cytometry technology can take you many places. An experienced flow cytometrist can find a job in a biotechnology company, in academia, or in a clinical setting.

Rather than focusing on specific career information, I would like to highlight one career option that has been very good for me since my transition from research scientist to core manager over a decade ago.

Core facilities, or Shared Resource Laboratories (SRL) as this Cytometry A paper made popular, represent an investment by institutions in resources and personnel.

Staff and directors working in SRLs have the advanced training and experience to support the researchers and research mission of the institution.

Working in an SRL is a different and very exciting career option for researchers who enjoy flow cytometry, enjoy working on many different projects, and enjoy working in scientific customer service.

That being said, starting out in an SRL can be daunting. Professionals of all kinds, or “users”, expect you to be an expert and will come to you for answers to all sorts of questions.

Some of these questions are easy to answer, some are not. As a result, a key to being successful in a flow cytometry career comes down to staying up-to-date on the latest information, best practices, top resources, and more.

When it comes to starting a career in flow cytometry, there are 5 strategies that will help you hit the ground running…

1. Learn all you can about flow cytometry technology.

Education is critical for making the most of any scientific technology. In flow cytometry, learning everything from how the instrument works, to gauging fluorochrome brightness, to troubleshooting problems with the instrument, with experiments, and with data analysis.

There are a large number of ways to get this education, some of which include:

  • Vendor Training Courses — these are great for instrument specific training.
  • Annual Training Courses — there are several courses around the world that are put on by regional societies. These courses are a great way to meet experts in the field, network with peers, and learn new techniques.
  • Society Training — ISAC, CCS, and ESCCA have various training materials that are accessible to researchers. Check out the links to the societies above to learn more.

2. Get involved in regional users groups.

Finding all the local users of the technology can be challenging. Many areas have a regional cytometry group that hosts an annual meeting. This is where you can find local users and experts of the technology. If there isn’t one, consider starting one.

Meetings like the CYTO and ICCS annual meetings are good for networking while learning the latest and greatest in the field of flow cytometry.

3. Build your support network.

There will be questions and situations that will arise out of your realm of experience. A support network where you can ask questions and get answers in a timely fashion is critical, especially in the early stages of a career in an SRL.

There are a few very good resources that should be at the top of the list. These include:

  • The Purdue Listserv — Over 20 years and still going strong. This is the ‘List’ for users of cytometry to ask questions and get answers. With a searchable database, it is an excellent place to learn about topics from sheath fluid, to isotype controls, and everything in between. The list is moderated, allowing for more focused conversation, while keeping things on topic.
  • The Cytometry Google group — Started a few years ago, this group offers an alternative to the Purdue list. This group is growing and has a different feel than the Purdue list. The ease of uploading pictures, allowing vendor responses (and advertisements), and the power of Google (such as video ‘hangouts’) all offer another complementary way to get information.
  • The Expert Cytometry Mastery Class — The Mastery Class is the world’s fastest growing and most successful flow cytometry training program. In addition to the Mastery Class offering an annual subscription to a 4-module training course and a live webinar series, members can get access to a private discussion group where on-going training and education topics are covered, where questions are answered in a matter of minutes, and where strong professional connection are made.

4. Identify a mentor and ask for support.

If you are new to the field, finding a mentor is a very useful step. Your mentor should be a senior scientist who can help you navigate the greater process of being a purveyor of technology.

This can include career advice, someone to turn to for help when solving difficult scientific or technical problems, someone to bounce ideas off of, and more. If they are at your institution, they can help with potential ‘political’ issues that will arise. As you move up the career ladder and become the manager or director of a facility, this support is very useful.

5. Travel to expand your network and expertise.

It costs money, it takes time, and you may have to jump through hoops to get approved at your institution, but it’s difficult to be a master of all techniques where you are, especially if resources or expertise are limited, and you may need to travel to learn what you need.

Sometimes, the better strategy is to go to another institution to learn a specific technique, rather than beat one’s head against the instrument trying to get things to work.

Becoming a member of an SRL is an exciting opportunity. There are many different ways to get into this field. To be successful in the field, seek out new educational opportunities and network with your peers. Flow cytometrists in the field are more than willing to talk and share their ideas and experiences while helping out a fellow cytometrist. A little effort can go a long way.

To learn more about how to get a flow cytometry job and to get access to all of our advanced materials including 20 training videos, presentations, workbooks, and private group membership, get on the Flow Cytometry Mastery Class wait list.

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

Getting A New Flow Cytometer? Try Before You Buy (And 2 Other Tips)

Getting A New Flow Cytometer? Try Before You Buy (And 2 Other Tips)

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

There are 4 major ways to sort cells. The first way can use magnetic beads coupled to antibodies and pass the cells through a magnetic field. The labeled cells will stick, and the unlabeled cells will remain in the supernatant. The second way is to use some sort of mechanical force like a flapper or air stream that separates the target cells from the bulk population. The third way is the recently introduced microfluidics sorter, which uses microfluidics channels to isolate the target cells. The last method, which is the most common––based on Fuwyler’s work––is the electrostatic cell sorter. This…

5-Point Guide To Buying A New Microscope For Your Lab

5-Point Guide To Buying A New Microscope For Your Lab

By: Heather Brown-Harding, PhD

Have you ever noticed how painful it can be to purchase a new microscope? It would be hard to miss – this can be a frustrating process. A lot of scientists and students consider the new microscope hunt quite scary for a variety of reasons. It might be that you’re worried you won’t get the right microscope and that you’ll regret it, or you may find that dealing with salespeople, in general, makes you kind of uncomfortable. But remember, salespeople are just human beings like you and me, and if we can treat them as such, the whole process of…

Ask These 7 Questions Before Purchasing A Flow Cytometer

Ask These 7 Questions Before Purchasing A Flow Cytometer

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

I am still convinced that my first cell sorter was possessed. The number of issues that I had with the system remains hard for me to believe, even after all these years. It had been purchased, in part, from one vendor because the sales rep for a competitor was nowhere to be found. At that time, I admit I wasn’t overly diligent in my research process. Since then, I’ve pinpointed some critical questions that need to be answered before purchasing a new instrument. At the end of the process, a shiny new instrument will arrive at your facility. Make sure…

Instrument Quality Control For Reproducible Flow Cytometry Experiments

Instrument Quality Control For Reproducible Flow Cytometry Experiments

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

The flow cytometer is an integral component of any flow cytometry experiment, and special attention should be paid to ensuring that it is working correctly and consistently. As an end-user, the researcher should be able to sit down at a machine and know that it is performing the same way today as it was yesterday and last week. Equally important is that if any changes in instrument performance have occured, the end-user knows how they have been addressed and corrected, rather than letting them fester and potentially affect the results. Quality control measurements can include a variety of targets, such…

How to Optimize Flow Cytometry Hardware For Rare Event Analysis

How to Optimize Flow Cytometry Hardware For Rare Event Analysis

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

Preparing for rare event analysis requires an understanding of the power and limitation of the instrument to be used. From how fast to run the fluidics, to how the signal is processed to the number of gates that can be used in the sorting experiment, each factor impacts the outcome of the experiment.

3 Ways The ZE5 Cell Analyzer Accelerates Flow Cytometry Research Opportunities

3 Ways The ZE5 Cell Analyzer Accelerates Flow Cytometry Research Opportunities

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

Some technological advances are incremental, while others are significant game-changing tools that offer the researcher the ability to significantly improve current assays while allowing for new and novel avenues of research to be performed. With speed, sensitivity, and capacity to spare, the ZE5 fits into the game-changing category. Reduced carryover, increased speed of acquisition, and a large number of parameters all open up new and novel assays while improving the quality and reproducibility of ongoing ones.

3 Advantages Of Using The ZE5 Cell Analyzer

3 Advantages Of Using The ZE5 Cell Analyzer

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

Since the first laser was mounted to create the first flow cytometer, there has been a push for more - more lasers, more detectors, more colors. As a result, today’s researchers require a large number of lasers and detectors to ensure current panels can be run and new, expanded panels can be developed. This can be problematic because, in general, making one decision to improve a cell analyzer can limit the analyzer in other ways. It may seem like an impossible task, but the team of Bio-Rad and Propel Laboratories, collaborated to bring the ZE5™ Cell Analyzer to the market…

3 Advantages FCS Express 6 Has Over Other Flow Cytometry Data Analysis Software Programs

3 Advantages FCS Express 6 Has Over Other Flow Cytometry Data Analysis Software Programs

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

FCS Express is the ideal data analysis software program to use when analyzing your flow cytometry experiments because it is the most user-friendly program available that is both aligned with current data analysis best practices and maintains rigorous quality control standards.

How To Use A Threshold To Reduce Background Noise In Flow Cytometry

How To Use A Threshold To Reduce Background Noise In Flow Cytometry

By: Tim Bushnell, PhD

Getting a clear signal with reduced noise is an essential component to good data. Adding a threshold when acquiring flow cytometry data is one way to do that. It reduces the number of events by setting a bar that a signal pulse must clear before it is counted as an event. Depending on the importance of the data, the downstream applications for the data (or sorted cells) will dictate how critical the threshold is. In combination with proper sample preparation, appropriate thresholding will reduce debris and ensure best outcome.

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.