[Histonet] Histo Stories

Susan Bachus susanbachus <@t> verizon.net
Fri Mar 12 06:44:22 CST 2010

     Sorry to be so late to the party, hope I'm not too late to share my 
story:   I still vividly remember being shown a "career documentary" film 
about histotechnology, in junior high school, back in the 60's, by my 
biology teacher, Lynda McCurdy Ballingall--the lovely lady who influenced my 
life more than anyone else, and who I just enjoyed the privilege of visiting 
in Chicago, where she lives now, when the Society for Neuroscience meeting 
was held there last year.   (She swears she remembers me staying after class 
to continue drawing what we were observing under the microscope, though I 
have absolutely no recollection of this!)
     But I didn't think much more about it till I earned my PhD in 
Psychobiology, decades later.   Of course in psychobiology research 
histology is an important method, to verify lesion damage, electrode and 
cannula placements, etc.   Back in the "good old days" a psychobiology lab 
supported a technician, an animal caretaker, a secretary, and a histologist, 
in addition to grad students and the primary investigator.   I began as that 
golden era was waning though, at least in our lab.   I survived by teaching 
undergrads, and the histologist was being "let go".   Just before she left, 
our delightful histologist, Mrs. Anne Madsen,  patiently trained me, and I 
then trained the students who came after me.   The only drawback was that 
she was so expert that everything worked perfectly in her hands.  It then 
took me the next few decades to painfully learn by trial & error how to 
troubleshoot as things gradually went wrong (pH's drifted off, gelatin 
congealed, etc. etc.).
     I gradually added other related methods to my armamentarium, like 
immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization histochemistry, while a 
post-doc at NIH.  Not least of the "goods" that I reaped at NIH were the 
supplies that labs discarded when they moved, which I hoarded in my basement 
at home in anticipation of setting up a lab of my own in academia, where 
funds don't flow as freely as those at NIH, someday--enough, it turned out, 
to set up my own functional lab nearby at George Mason University!
     So when I began teaching a graduate level Histology/Histochemistry 
course that I kluged together on my own at GMU (thank goodness for Carson's 
textbook!), several years ago, I made a big deal of teaching my graduate 
students the nitty-gritty "nuts & bolts" theories/rationales underlying the 
methods, to prepare them for troubleshooting in their own futures!  Some of 
you may recall that one of my students inadvertently stirred up a flurry of 
debate about the purpose of Histonet a few years ago when she asked a 
question that was misinterpreted as "cheating" while utilizing Histonet as a 
"resource" (not what I had in mind when I encouraged them to subscribe to 
Histonet!) in preparing for a lab that embedded a "mystery" to solve in the 
exercise of learning how to use Nissl stains (trying to make things more 
     One downside to having learned "on the scene", as it were, is that I 
never received formal training or licensing in histology.  So now that I 
find myself unable to afford to continue indulging in teaching as an adjunct 
($3K for a 5 credit class), since my husband's death, I also find myself 
excluded from "real jobs" in histology.   (If anyone in the DC/Northern 
Virginia area could use someone like me, please email me!)
     I laughed a lot over others' stories of their kids' exposure to their 
work.  Mine were also  practically raised in labs (my husband was also a 
scientist [electrophysiologist]).   They have more vivid memories of the 
animals we used in our psychopharmacology research though--to this day (my 
son is graduating from college now) they proudly profess to never having 
felt the slightest temptation to abuse drugs (thank goodness!), having been 
appalled by the pathetic bedraggled appearance of our drug-injected rat 
subjects when they were knee-high.  I did have fun taking slides in to show 
their junior high school biology classes, when they learned microscopy, 
though it seems this was more exciting for me than it was for my kids (their 
classmates did send warmly appreciative notes thanking me!).
nostalgically,   Susan
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Breeden, Sara" <sbreeden <@t> nmda.nmsu.edu>
To: "histonet" <histonet <@t> lists.utsouthwestern.edu>
Sent: Thursday, March 11, 2010 8:09 AM
Subject: [Histonet] Histo Stories

> Thanks to everyone that sent their Story of How I Ended Up Doing This
> Histology Thing!  I have gotten 50 or more replies!  The one thing that
> strikes me is how many of us went into this profession without a clue!
> With all the opportunities to recruit future histologists, this
> Histology Day idea is a good start. On the original subject, I'm
> planning to make one document out of all the replies and - WITH
> PERMISSION - attach your name to the answers.  If you do NOT want your
> submission listed because you want to remain anonymous, you must let me
> know ASAP.  Send to: nmhisto <@t> comcast.net.  Thanks for your stories!
> Sally Breeden, HT(ASCP)
> NM Dept. of Agriculture
> Veterinary Diagnostic Services
> PO Box 4700
> Albuquerque, NM  87106
> 505-841-2576
> _______________________________________________
> Histonet mailing list
> Histonet <@t> lists.utsouthwestern.edu
> http://lists.utsouthwestern.edu/mailman/listinfo/histonet


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