Career Ambassador Savors ‘Aha Moment’ When Teaching Students Science
Monday, December 17, 2012
Getting the attention of eighth-grade students in a classroom setting might be a challenge for some but not for Lisa Thrasher, MLT(ASCP)CM. After completing her year as an ASCP Career Ambassador from 2010 to 2011, she still laughs when recalling how she engaged students during a visit to her son’s eighth-grade class to talk about science.
“I had my son put his dirty fingers on an ager plate and let it grow overnight,” TSgt. Thrasher said. “Then, we had an ager plate where he touched it with clean hands. The next day, the students saw bacteria growing on the ager plate her son touched with dirty hands. Their response was, ‘Wow! That’s disgusting!’ It opened their eyes to the concept of hand-washing and was scientific enough to get the point across.”
“I had my son put his dirty fingers on an ager plate and let it grow overnight. Then, we had an ager plate where he touched it with clean hands. The next day, the students saw bacteria growing on the ager plate her son touched with dirty hands. Their response was, ‘Wow! That’s disgusting!’ It opened their eyes to the concept of hand-washing and was scientific enough to get the point across.”
—TSgt. Lisa Thrasher, MLT(ASCP)CM
ASCP Career Ambassador from 2010 to 2011
At the end of her presentation, she talked with the students for 15 minutes about the different careers they can pursue in science. TSgt. Thrasher also explained that there is a shortage of laboratory professionals. ASCP sends Career Ambassadors to schools nationwide to encourage students to think about a possible career in laboratory science.
Just how did she pick out which schools to visit? “With my son in eighth grade, I just went to his science teacher and asked if I could co-teach a class with him,” TSgt. Thrasher said. “I dovetailed my lesson with what the students were learning in class to show how it tied together.”
Her son’s science teacher so enjoyed TSgt. Thrasher’s presentation that he invited her back for six more classes. Meanwhile, she asked the teacher for suggestions of other area schools to visit and began calling them. ASCP asks its Career Ambassadors to put together presentations for middle, high school, and junior college students to spark their interest in science careers.
TSgt. Thrasher always handed out surveys to find out what students liked best about the presentation. Most of the students responded that they liked the sections that were hands-on, as it helped them to understand the point she was trying to convey.
“It seems that it was mostly the girls who were interested in science careers,” she said. “Some of the boys were interested in working in hospitals. More than anything, the biggest thing I heard them say was, ‘We never heard of this job before. We thought you just draw blood.’ ”
For TSgt. Thrasher, serving as an ASCP Career Ambassador, while time-consuming, was gratifying. She always loved science in school but never thought about it as a career. She just knew that she wanted to join the U.S. Air Force.
After joining the Air Force, TSgt. Thrasher completed an aptitude test that indicated she would be good as a medical laboratory scientist or an air traffic controller. The possibility of being able to serve in the Air Force and continue to work in the science field really intrigued her.
Today, TSgt. Thrasher is the floor supervisor of Core Laboratory Operations at Travis Air Force Base, Fairfield, Calif., overseeing 25 people.
“Last year I did research and I worked for the scientists,” she said. “This year, I’m back in clinical and run patient samples. I run everyone’s work, and I train the new lab techicians. So teaching the eighth grade and high school students is nothing new to me.”
To be in the military, one does not need certification to work in a laboratory, she explained. Yet as TSgt. Thrasher began attending more symposiums over the years, she heard civilian attendees talk about their ASCP certifications and how it helped them to get better paying jobs.
“In California, the rumor was that once you get out of the military, you cannot work unless you have your certification,” TSgt. Thrasher said. “So I started investigating the requirements to get ASCP certified. It spread like wildfire throughout the base. Now I am working with the Laboratory Career Field manager and contacting all U.S. Air Force Laboratories so we can push toward getting our medical laboratory professionals ASCP certified."