A Day at the American Type Culture Collection

The American Type Culture Collection, better known as ATCC, is one of the country’s oldest and most respected biotech companies. Founded in 1914, ATCC began as a simple collection to preserve a variety of microbes being studied by scientists. Today, it maintains a vast repository of the many different organisms of interest to researchers in every area of the life sciences. Among the organisms available are viruses, bacteria, fungi, protists, and eukaryotic cell lines.

ATCC employs biologists with a wide range of interests and specialties: medical microbiologists, molecular biologists, stem cell researchers, marine microbiologists, specialists in influenza, biotoxins, mycology, and biosafety, and many others. Many employees are hired to work in one area of research and, after a few years, they expand their scope or transfer to a different department as their interests grow and change. ATCC excels at offering training and growth opportunities, whether it’s for a new biologist at their first job out of college or for an experienced employee looking for new challenges to test their skills. An ATCC employee’s year is punctuated with conferences, workshops, and lectures that enable them to constantly grow as a scientist.

My personal bailiwick is the bacteriology research and development department that I joined after previously working in the biodefense and emerging diseases program. We receive newly isolated bacteria strains for our collection and it can be everything from the latest antibiotic-resistant bacteria outbreak to Archaea from the far corners of the Earth. Unlike a standard research lab, where one might focus on a single bug or a few of its closest relatives, I love being able to work with a wide variety of organisms simultaneously. On any given day, I might spend time working with an enteric rod, a Mycoplasma, a spirochete, a drug-resistant Staph, and an extremophile. The constantly changing variety of organisms and their accompanying challenges ensures my work is never boring!

I recently received certification as a Registered Microbiologist (RM) from the NRCM at the suggestion and encouragement of my supervisor. This was one way for ATCC to demonstrate the skill and competence of its employees as measured by an impartial standard. For me, the RM certification is proof of my specialized training on top of my previous certification as a medical technologist. It’s very satisfying to have one’s hard-won skills be officially recognized.

Megan Amselle, MT(ASCP), RM(NRCM), Senior Biologist, American Type Culture Collection, Manassas, VA; she achieved her NRCM certification in 2010.

Copyright© National Registry of Certified Microbiologists. Reprinted from The Loop, 2011, Issue 3.