Microscopy and the Medical Laboratory Technologist

Microscopy. It is an intimidating word, but at its basic level, it simply involves looking at things through a microscope. It is also one of the many specialties of a medical technologist. This article discusses the different types of equipment used, and how these relate to the daily work of a laboratory technologist. While this is not an all-inclusive list, it should give individuals interested in the field of microscopy a good starting point.

  • The most commonly used, and perhaps oldest type of microscope, is the optical or light microscope. Light is passed through the machine and through the specimen being viewed to magnify it. These machines sometimes also use a specialized camera to produce a film or even digital image. Sometimes, stains are used on the glass slide to make cells or structures more easily seen.
  • Electron microscopes use beams of electrons, rather than light, to create an image. These microscopes are often used to visualize objects such as microorganisms and crystal structures, which are too small to be imaged with an optical microscope.
  • The probe scanning microscope is used primarily to create images of objects that are rather flat. This instrument uses a probe that scans the object's surface, and then software is used to render the results into a viewable image.
  • One of the newer methods in this field is that of virtual microscopy. This method uses computer technology to convert images on glass slides into electronic data that has a resolution similar to that achieved with the use of an optical microscope. This technique enables electronic transport and storage of data from the slides, and also allows the slides to be reviewed remotely.

Microscopy is an important part of the everyday work of a medical laboratory technologist, a job that is crucial to patient care. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national median salary in 2010 for this field was just under $47,000. The job rate for this field is expected to grow by 13 percent through the year 2020. If you think this field might be right for you, the first step is finding a good program that will teach you the proper techniques and familiarize you with the instrumentation necessary to succeed in this field.

Tags: healthcare, Medical Lab Technician, medical technology

Karen N. Brown, MSHA

About Karen N. Brown, MSHA

Karen Brown is a freelance writer specializing in content for the health professions, but her writing projects have been quite varied in subject. She graduated from The University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Philosophy, and a Master of Science in Health Administration. For nearly 20 years, she worked at UAB, an academic medical center, most notably as a division administrator for a large, international HIV/AIDS program. She also has considerable knowledge in federal research regulation. Karen lives in Alabama's Birmingham metropolitan area. View all posts by Karen N. Brown, MSHA →