A Day in the Life at The Microbiology Bench

Sept. 12, 2022

Microbiologists working in clinical or public health laboratories may have different responsibilities and workloads, depending on the size of the laboratory, and the services and resources available to the laboratory. In this episode of Career Conversations for the Medical and Public Health Laboratory, Zenda Berrada, Ph.D., D(ABMM), Laboratory Director for the Microbial Diseases Laboratory Program, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and guests Xiao Hui Lau, PHM, a certified Public Health Microbiologist at the CDPH, and Jesada Mathiyakom, CLS, a Medical Laboratory Scientist working as a microbiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles Health discuss what a day at the clinical or public health microbiology bench is like in their laboratories.

Key Takeaways From the Episode:

  • Job responsibilities in clinical and public health laboratories can vary, depending on bench assignments, and whether one specializes in a specific area or rotates benches.
  • Microbiologists may also take on other important responsibilities in the laboratory, such as providing training to new scientists, helping to develop and implement new tests and implementing and troubleshooting Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS).
  • A medical laboratory scientist preparing a laboratory instrument, used to conduct real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis of SARS-CoV-2 specimens.
    Teamwork is important to ensure that the necessary laboratory work and notifications are completed. In smaller laboratories, microbiologists may perform a lot of independent work as well.
  • Those considering a career as a medical or public health microbiologist should reach out to laboratorians doing the work they are interested in, make connections in the field, volunteer or shadow in a laboratory and make sure they are taking all the prerequisite coursework needed to qualify for specific training programs.


  • Careers in Clinical and Public Health Microbiology
    Careers within clinical and public health microbiology are challenging, yet rewarding. They offer opportunities to participate in clinical decision-making by providing critical information to healthcare teams. Microbiologists also contribute to public health by providing information important for the detection and characterization of pathogens that are of public health concern.
  • An Academic’s Guide to Applied Public Health Microbiology
    Dr. Lisa Leung discusses her journey from an academic career path to one in public health microbiology, including what it takes to be successful in her field.
  • Working in Public Health at the State Level
    Public health microbiology professionals research, detect, track and treat microorganisms that cause infectious diseases. ASM interviewed Dr. Denise Toney, Laboratory Director of the Division of Consolidated Laboratories at the State Laboratory of Virginia, to learn about her career at a state public health laboratory and what advice she has for those interested in the public health field.
  • Clinical and Public Health Laboratories Need You
    The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated staffing shortages in clinical and public health labs. ASM and Weber State University developed a certificate program to qualify college grads to work in such laboratories.
  • Clinical Microbiologists and Laboratorians Play Crucial Role in the Future of Health Care
    Dr. Carey-Ann Burnham, D(ABMM), Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and recipient of the 2020 ASM Award for Research and Leadership in Clinical Microbiology, speaks about her work in the fight against COVID-19.
  • Navigating the Start of a Medical Technologist Career in Clinical Microbiology
    Debbie Myers, a chief technologist at Penn State advises medical technologists in clinical microbiology about finding mentors and resources to help them in the beginning of their careers.

Career Conversations for the Medical and Public Health Laboratory Scientist is a twice-quarterly discussion on career advancement in clinical and public health laboratories. Members of ASM’s Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Subcommittee (CMMS) will invite guests from clinical and public health microbiology laboratories to discuss topics specific to the laboratory. The CMMS’ goal is to help others learn more about the profession and advance their careers in the clinical or public health microbiology laboratory.

The CMMS provides career advancement activities for those new to the field of clinical or public health microbiology. Its roster of mentors is available to answer any career advancement questions you have.

Author: ASM Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Subcommittee

ASM Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Subcommittee
ASM's Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Subcommittee (CMMS) provides career and networking advice to those looking to advance in clinical and public health microbiology.

Author: Zenda Berrada, Ph.D., D(ABMM)

Zenda Berrada, Ph.D., D(ABMM)
Zenda Berrada, Ph.D., D(ABMM), is the Chief of the Microbial Diseases Laboratory Program at the California Department of Public Health.