Trish Reed, Timothy Couillard, Allison Couillard
Cross-Curricular, STEM/STEAM, CTE, Career Connections, Health and Medical Sciences
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Lesson, Lesson Plan, Visual Media
Middle School, High School
Virginia Public Media (VPM)
Clinical Laboratory Science, Clinical Pathology, Disease Detection, Disease Prevention, Job Growth, Lab Management, Medical Careers, Medical Professional, Medical Technology, Microbiology, Science Matters, Scientists, Technical Education, Workforce, • Chronic Illness
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0
Media Formats:
Downloadable docs, Video

Hot Job: Investigate Illness as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist

Hot Job: Investigate Illness as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist


How do you track a disease? How do you determine if a blood sample contains a virus or a bacteria that could make millions of people sick? What type of information would you need to know to stop a disease from spreading? If you are interested in these questions then being an “Illness investigator” or a Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) might be the right career path for you.


Hot Job: Investigate Illness as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist Video and Background Info

Hot Jobs: Investigating Illness

How do you track a disease? How do you determine if a blood sample contains a virus or a bacteria that could make millions of people sick? What type of information would you need to know to stop a disease from spreading? If you are interested in these questions then being an “Illness investigator” or a Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) might be the right career path for you. Clinical Laboratory Scientists, also known as Medical Laboratory Scientists, are health professionals who investigate events making headlines all over the world. From flu epidemics to anthrax incidents, to rabies outbreaks to the emergence of SARS and more, clinical laboratory scientists use sophisticated instruments to analyze blood and other body fluids and tissues to glean important information to diagnose and track diseases.

Dr. Marilyn Bibbs-Freeman, Group Manager for Immunology and Virology at the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services explains that “as a kid, I found it fun to know about things you couldn’t see. And when I learned that bacteria and viruses were the small things making me sick, I wanted to know about them.”

Fast forward--Dr. Bibbs-Freeman in Middle School (“I wasn’t the biggest fan of science”) to high school (“I really began to like science in high school because we had labs that allowed us to use our hands and visualize things under the microscope”) to her career as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist. Bibbs-Freeman explains why this career is a Hot Job, “Because identifying diseases is important and necessary to protect human health. Unfortunately, people get sick every day, and our role here at the laboratory is to help to diagnose disease. By knowing where the disease exists we can help prevent it in the future. And because diseases evolve and change every day, we’re going to need more people in the workforce in order to identify them as they change and move.”

Watch this Science Matters video to learn more about Clinical Laboratory Science and see if being an “illness investigator” is the right career path for you.

What do Clinical and Medical Laboratory Scientists and Technicians Do?

  • Analyze body fluids and tissue samples and record normal and abnormal findings
  • Culture and identify bacteria and viruses
  • Operate sophisticated laboratory equipment
  • Use automated equipment and computerized instruments to perform tests
  • Log data from medical tests and enter results
  • Discuss results and findings with physicians

How to become a Clinical Laboratory Scientist?

  • High school students who are interested in pursuing a career should take classes in chemistry, biology and math.
  • Entry-level job for technologists usually require a bachelor’s degree in medical technology or life science.
  • Bachelor’s degree program for a medical laboratory scientist degree includes courses in chemistry, biology, microbiology, math, and statistics.
  • Coursework emphasizes laboratory skills, including safety procedures and lab management.
  • Medical laboratory technicians require an associate’s degree program in clinical laboratory science.

What are the skills important to this career?

  • Do you think like a detective?
  • Are you able to operate complex machinery and technology?
  • Are you detail oriented?
  • Are you dexterous - do you love to work with your hands?
  • Have you plenty of physical stamina?

(Source for above: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook)

What is the Job Outlook for this career?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment for medical laboratory technologists is projected to grow 14% and medical laboratory technicians is projected to grow 18% from 2014-2024, much faster that the average for all occupations.

Educational Programs in Virginia:
Virginia Department of Education, Career and Technical Education in Health Sciences

Not sure if you have the skills needed?
Let Virginia Wizard or My Skills My Future help you assess your skills and find the best career for you.

Want to dig in more?
Check out the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

Presented by VPM Science Matters


Written by

Debbie Mickle

January 14, 2016



Science Matters logo



Investigating Illness- Clinical Lab Scientist Lesson Plan by Allison Couillard


Clinical Lab Scientist Lesson Plan

Subject  / grade level: Life Science (6th/7th grade)
Timeframe: 1-2 Class periods (depending on what you choose to use from the activities given below)
VDOE Essential Standards and Clarifying Objectives:
  • LS.4  The student will investigate and understand that there are chemical processes of energy transfer which are important for life. Key ideas include
  • a) photosynthesis is the foundation of virtually all food webs; and
  • b) photosynthesis and cellular respiration support life processes.[a]
  • LS.4 The student will investigate and understand how organisms can be classified. Key concepts include
  • a) the distinguishing characteristics of domains of organisms;
  • b) the distinguishing characteristics of kingdoms of organisms
Lesson objective(s):
  • The student will classify objects as non-living or living (alive, once alive, dormant) based on the characteristics of living things.
21st Century Skill(s):
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Citizenship
Differentiation strategies to meet diverse learner needs:
  • Sort can be word-based, picture-based, or a combination
  • Sort can be done individually or in a group (but group is recommended)
  • Sort can be simply Living and Non-living, or the living category can be subdivided into categories of Still Living, Once Living, and Dormant for extension
  • Options for evaluation
  • Glue Monsters:
  • Petri dish
  • Duco cement modeling glue (this specific brand works most reliably)
  • Pencil shavings
  • Construction paper
  • Overhead projector or document camera[b]
  • Tap water
  • Sewer Lice:
  • 10-20 raisins
  • 1000 mL beaker or similar clear container
  • Carbonated beverage such as Mountain Dew that could pass as “sewer water”
  • Living/Non-living sort cards (one set per group); recommend printing in color if the picture cards are used
  • Projector (to show videos & slides)
  • Whiteboard/chalkboard/chart paper and writing utensils for group & whole class discussions
  • Do the Glue Monsters[c] OR Sewer Lice demonstration.
  • Discuss whether the glue monsters/sewer lice are alive before and after you share what the students are actually seeing in the demonstration.  Have students justify their responses.
  • Ask: “What does it mean to be alive/living?”
  • Do NOT go over the characteristics of living things at this time.
  • Living or Non-living sort  in small groups (see notes at the top of the sort document); you can use the words or pictures only or a combination of the two; if using the picture cards, they should be printed in color if possible; you may choose to have students sort based on simply living or non-living, or you can include once living and dormant as categories as well
  • Discuss how students sorted the categories and why they sorted as they did
  • Show Introduction to the Characteristics of Living Things video
  • Use Living or Non-living sort to come up with some characteristics of all living things based on what all of their living things have in common (encourage students to move cards as they come up with their characteristics).  This can be done in small groups and then as a whole class or just as a whole class as time allows.
  • Share this Characteristics of living things list with the students to compare with the class list.  Assign each group an organism from different kingdoms of living things (such as giraffe, apple tree, shelf fungus, paramecium, streptococcus, halophiles).  Have the students apply each characteristic to the organism in their kingdom to “prove” that it’s living.  
  • What are the scientists in the video doing?  What types of organisms are they working with?  Why?
  • What are the scientists feeding the samples?  Why?  (You can connect this with photosynthesis & respiration.)
  • What do you know about bacteria? Are they alive?
  • What do you know about viruses? Are they alive?
  • Scientists still debate whether or not viruses are alive.  Share this web page, Are Viruses Alive?, with students so they can learn the characteristics of a virus.  (You may want to hold off on having them listen to the brief debate at the end until after they give their justifications.)
  • Designate one side of the room as the “viruses are living” side and the other as the “viruses are non-living” side.  Have students choose a side of the room to go to.  Have students share their reasoning with a partner and/or with the whole class.  Let students know that they can switch sides if someone does a good job of persuading them.  It is up to you if you let students stand in the middle as a third option or if they must pick one side or the other.
  • Key questions:
  • 1. What are the characteristics of living things?
  • 2. What are the defining characteristics of the bacteria domains?  
  • 3. Why aren’t viruses listed in any kingdom?  What are the characteristics of viruses that might help classify them?  Do you believe they should be included in an existing kingdom, do you think they should be a new kingdom, or do you think that they shouldn’t be included as a kingdom of life?  Explain.
  • These key questions can be answered in a variety of formal or informal ways including a class discussion, Google Form, video (WeVideo or Flipgrid work well), or as an informational “comic strip”
  • Here is a basic rubric that could work with most of the forms listed above; you can use something basic like this while giving students a choice in their evaluation format, or you can use this as a starting point as a more specific rubric for a single format.



5 E Model of Science Instruction

5 E’s Lesson ComponentsPurpose/Goals of the Component
ENGAGEMENT: meant to capture the students’ attention and help them access prior knowledge (must include an indication of where the lesson is going)-Object, event or question engages students·    -Connections facilitated between what students know and can do·   -Pose problems·   -Reveal discrepancies· -Reveal prior student misconceptions·    -Develops a need to know
EXPLORATION: students are given time to think, plan, and organize collected information to develop their ideas about the content and/or investigation-Objects and phenomena are explored·         -Hands-on activities, with guidance·   -Predictions and hypotheses made·         -Seek possibilities·         -Teachers make open suggestions, questions, probes, provides feedback, and assesses understanding and processes
EXPLANATION: allow students to explain and follow with teacher explanation; their understanding is clarified and modified because of reflective activities-New concepts and skills are introduced·   -Various modes for instruction used·    -Guided discussions and brainstorming·       -Generalizations are formed by students·    -Provide an opportunity for learners to develop a deeper understanding concepts·         -Teachers ask questions, pose new problems,    models, and assesses understanding and processes
ELABORATION:  gives the student the opportunity to expand and solidify their understanding of the concept, and/or apply it to a real world situation-Understandings and skills are extended as concepts are applied in contexts·   -Further clarification provided·         -New related tasks are conducted·         -New projects planned and carried out·         -Teachers ask additional questions, provides feedback, suggests resources and suggestions, models when necessary, and assesses understanding and processes
EVALUATION (ongoing throughout the 5E model): gathering of evidence that students have understood the new learning  and inform instructional decisions during the lesson-Activities permit evaluation of student knowledge and lesson effectiveness·   -Student self-assessment of their knowledge, skills,                and abilities·   -Gain insight into students’ thinking and understanding of concepts and skills·    -Provide rubrics to support students in evaluating         their own work and learning



[a]From new 2018 standards

[b]This demo calls for an overhead projector. I'm going to test this to see if it will work under a document camera since most classrooms no longer use overheads.

[c]Checking on this 

Investigate Illness Rubric by Allison Couillard


Includes at least 3 relevant scientific vocabulary words that are used correctly in context_____ /9 pts.
Gives at least 2 ways that bacteria and viruses are alike_____/ 4 pts.
Gives at least 2 ways that bacteria and viruses are different._____/ 4 pts.
States whether viruses should be included within the kingdoms of living things._____/ 2 pts.
Includes at least 3 accepted characteristics of living things_____/ 6 pts.
Gives at least 3 meaningful connections with an accepted characteristic of living things as justification in their response as to whether viruses are living or non-living._____/ 12 pts.
Turned in on time_____/ 3 pts.
Name is included on assignment_____/ 2 pts.
Total_____/ 42 pts.


Clinical Lab Scientist - Living Things Sort Activity by Allison Couillard

Characteristics of Living Things (from Exploratorium)

All organisms 

  • are made of one or more cells.

  • use energy (metabolism).

  • maintain a stable internal environment (homeostasis).

  • detect and respond to select external stimuli.

  • can engage in movement (which may occur internally, or even at the cellular level).

  • show growth and development; that is, specialization of cells or structures. (Even unicellular organisms show a tiny amount of growth, and single cells repair and use materials from the environment to replace internal structures as needed.)

  • reproduce. (Even if an individual can’t reproduce, its species can.) In addition, an individual’s cells are constantly reproducing themselves.

  • have nucleic acid as the hereditary molecule.

  • show adaptation, which occurs at the individual level and is tightly related to homeostasis.

  • exhibit complex organization, grouping molecules together to form cells; at a higher level, cells are organized into tissues, organs, and organ systems.

  • exhibit evolution over time due to mutation and natural selection (which operates at the species level).