Lab Culture

Lab Culture is a podcast by the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) about public health, laboratory science, and everything in between. Join us for discussions about infectious diseases, food safety, emergency preparedness, newborn screening, environmental health, global health, and more.
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Mar 23, 2022

Every year we commemorate World TB Day on March 24, the anniversary of the day Dr. Robert Koch first announced that he discovered Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacillus that causes TB. This World TB Day, we are sharing an insightful conversation between two TB laboratory leaders: Angie Schooley, B.S. MT(ASCP), Mycobacteriology/Mycology Unit Manager, Michigan Department of Health & Human Services  and Caitlin Miranda, M(ASCP), Microbiologist III, Oregon State Public Health Laboratory.



Nov 5, 2021

Like most things in public health science, food safety is complicated. The nuance can be difficult for non-scientists to understand and difficult for scientists to communicate. On this episode of Lab Culture, Shari Shea, APHL’s director of food safety, discusses some of what makes food safety fascinating and complex along with guests Ben Chapman, Associate Professor and Extension Food Safety Specialist at North Carolina State University, and Don Schaffner, Distinguished Professor and Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University.



Food Safety Talk 242: Invisible Poop Particles

Risky or Not episode 217: Homemade Treats From Neighbors

Risky or Not episode 87: 27 Lbs of Unrefrigerated Feta Cheese

Risky or Not episode 214: Having a Romantic Flour Fight

“Modeling the growth of Listeria monocytogenes on cut cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon”

“Ranking the disease burden of 14 pathogens in food sources in the United States using attribution data from outbreak investigations and expert elicitation”

“Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions for SARS-CoV-2 on norovirus outbreaks: an analysis of outbreaks reported by 9 US States”

Hello Fresh: Food Safety/Recall Notices

CDC MMWR: “Decreased Incidence of Infections Caused by Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food During the COVID-19 Pandemic — Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, 10 U.S. Sites, 2017–2020”

“Labs with No One to Run Them: Why Public Health Workers Are Fleeing the Field”

“APHL: Historic Investments Will Strengthen Public Health Laboratory Workforce”

Lab Culture Ep. 22: Life as a public health lab scientist testing for COVID-19

“DO NOT RINSE YOUR TURKEY! And other Thanksgiving food rules for every day”

Don Schaffner on Twitter

Ben Chapman on Twitter

Shari Shea on Twitter

Food Safety Talk podcast

Risky or Not podcast

Oct 5, 2021

Eric Bind and Andrew Steffens, scientists at the New Jersey Public Health and Environmental Laboratories, knew their lab was capable of screening expectant mothers and newborn babies for lead and mercury. But creating a program that also included important clinical interventions was unprecedented. On this episode of Lab Culture, they share how they pioneered this valuable program and established a precedent for others.


NJ Biomonitoring Website 

Lead and Mercury Educational Materials (English)

Prenatal Screening Mercury Questionnaire 

NJDEP Fish Advisory 

Boston Birth Cohort Study: Lead Paper

Boston Birth Cohort Study: Mercury Paper

CDC: Heavy Metals during Pregnancy

CDC: Pregnancy Information

Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs)

Lead and Mercury Educational Materials (Spanish)

Lead and Mercury Educational Materials (French Creole)

Lead and Mercury Educational Materials (Polish)

Lead and Mercury Educational Materials (Portuguese)

New Jersey Laboratory Pioneers Prenatal Lead and Mercury Screening” (Lab Matters magazine)


Jul 13, 2021

In October 2020, Dr. Rick Bright resigned in protest as director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) because of the Trump administration’s political interference in the COVID-19 response and their efforts to spread dangerous misinformation. Since then, Dr. Bright has joined The Rockefeller Foundation as senior vice president of pandemic prevention and response. Dr. Bright joined APHL CEO Scott Becker for a discussion as part of APHL’s Member Assembly – this episode is a recording of that conversation.

Mar 22, 2021

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has been a major topic of discussion among APHL’s members, staff and partners as well as in the national discourse. Understanding the minority experience is important so that individual and systemic progress can be made. But what is it like for public health laboratory staff who identify as being in a minority group? The Emerging Leader Program’s (ELP) 13 Fall Cohort decided to tackle this topic as part of their final project. In this episode, four members of this cohort shared pieces of the conversations they had with their colleagues and their overall thoughts on DEI within the public health laboratory as a workplace.

The ELP 13-Fall Cohort is a larger group, but only four members participated in this episode. They are:

Chenelle Norman
Association of Public Health Laboratories
Newborn Screening and Genetics
Manager, Newborn Screening Quality Improvement

Kim Smith
Houston Health Department
Quality and Compliance
QA/QC Officer

Alyssa MacMillan
New Jersey Department of Health Public Health & Environmental Laboratories
Microbiology Program Manager

Jill Simonetti
Minnesota Department of Health
Public Health Laboratory
Newborn Screening Operations Supervisor



How racism makes us sick | David R. Williams

“Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter” by David Rock and Heidi Grant 

"Why The Phrase ‘Pull Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps’ Is Nonsense"

Lab Culture Ep. 9: What is the APHL Emerging Leader Program?  

Lab Culture Ep. 10: Public health labs do that?!

Lab Culture Ep. 11: What if there were no public health labs? 

Lab Culture Ep. 12: Bitten by the public health bug — How I found my lab niche 

APHL Emerging Leader Program 

APHL on Twitter

APHL on Facebook

APHL on Instagram


Sep 11, 2020

On August 27, 2020, APHL joined The Story Collider for a very special edition of their show featuring four true, personal stories about from APHL members about how COVID-19 has impacted their lives. This episode is a recording of that show. The Story Collider produces dozens of live shows all over the country, and recently has moved to an exciting online format.

The Story Collider
September is Public Health Laboratory Appreciation Month
APHL 2020 Virtual Conference

Jul 29, 2020

Jessica Bauer and Matt Sinn are scientists at the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory. On this episode, they shared their experiences performing COVID-19 testing, working long hours seven days a week, supporting their staff while trying not to burnout themselves. As they describe in this conversation, the experience has been nothing they ever could have expected.

Jessica Bauer, molecular unit chief
Matthew Sinn, molecular laboratory manager


Missouri State Public Health Laboratory
APHL: Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 posts on 

Dec 16, 2019

Are we already at the end of 2019?! While to many of us it felt like the year flew by, APHL staff, members and partners accomplished a LOT in an effort to protect the public's health. In this episode, Scott Becker, APHL's executive director, reviews some of the highlights of the year along with Gynene Sullivan, APHL's manager of communications, who is finalizing our Annual Report.

Follow APHL on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram so you don't miss anything!


APHL: Lung Injury Response Associated with Vaping

CDC: Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products

APHL work on opioids

Data: Elemental to Health advocacy campaign

Supporting rapid exchange of public health data is urgent, crucial and laden with challenges

APHL AIMS Platform

Lab Matters (Fall 2019): Making Data Fly

NewSTEPs Data Repository

APHL Newborn Screening Systems Quality Improvement Projects Award Recipients Announced

APHL Public Health Laboratory Fellowships

APHL Emerging Leader Program

Lab Culture Ep. 9: What is the APHL Emerging Leader Program?

CDC: US Measles Cases and Outbreaks in 2019

“Launching Whole Genome Sequencing in the Public Health Realm” Lab Matters (Fall 2013)

Accreditation for Human and Animal Food Labs

APHL Conferences

Lab Culture Extra: Progress in Sierra Leone

APHL Global Health Program: Countries we serve

Global Laboratory Leadership Programme (GLLP)

Laboratory Response Network (LRN)

Lab Culture Ep. 20: 20 Years of the Laboratory Response Network

“Two Decades of Preparedness Excellence: The Laboratory Response Network” Lab Matters (Fall 2019)

The LRN’s job is to prepare, detect and respond. But what exactly does that mean?

Strengthening Lab Biosafety & Biosecurity

“Ensuring Readiness for Rabies in Puerto Rico” Lab Matters (Spring 2019)

“Public Health System Recovery in Full Swing: Hurricane Response in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands” Lab Matters (Spring 2019)

In Puerto Rico, a new molecular bacteriology lab allows better control of foodborne outbreaks

APHL Publications

“US officials identify 'strong culprit' in vaping illnesses” Associated Press (video interview)

Oct 17, 2019

This year marks 20 years since the inception of the Laboratory Response Network (LRN). Founded by APHL, CDC and the FBI, the LRN exists to protect the public from biological and chemical threats. How did the LRN get its start? And how has it evolved over the past 20 years? This episode of Lab Culture features an interview with two public health laboratory scientists and LRN experts.

Maureen “Moe” Sullivan
Emergency Preparedness and Response Laboratory Supervisor
Public Health Laboratory, Minnesota Department of Health

Stefan Saravia
Biomonitoring and Emerging Contaminants Unit Supervisor
Public Health Laboratory, Minnesota Department of Health


Minnesota Laboratory Emergency Preparedness
About the Laboratory Response Network (
The Laboratory Response Network Partners in Preparedness (
What is biomonitoring? (Video)
“Pine County man charged with government center threats, more” (StarTribune)

Aug 21, 2019

APHL has a long history of involvement in Sierra Leone where we’ve provided technical assistance to strengthen the nation’s laboratory system for over a decade. Following the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak, we were invited back to build laboratory response capability for Ebola and other highly infectious diseases.

We found there was a lot to be done: a strategic plan for the laboratory system, renovation of the central lab, training and mentoring of lab staff, reducing turnaround time for Ebola testing, and much more.

With the engagement completed earlier this year, APHL Executive Director Scott Becker and Manager of Global Health Sherrie Staley share insights from APHL’s on-the-ground experience, which include the value of a healthy ram.


Photo album -- Progress in Sierra Leone

APHL joins partners in Sierra Leone to strengthen lab capacity in Ebola’s wake

High profile APHL team explores MOHS public health laboratory priority needs

APHL in Sierra Leone: Building a resilient lab system

Sierra Leone and Guinea: Building a resilient lab system

Jun 13, 2019

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, author of What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City, joins us for an interview about the importance of storytelling in public health. Did Dr. Mona's successful use of narratives allow Flint's story to be as resilient as the people who lived it?


Is water in Flint safe to drink? It’s not just a question of chemistry. [Op-ed by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha]

What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City

Jun 6, 2019

Today was day three of the annual meeting! We started the day with awards ceremony and concluded with the member assembly, listening to many great speakers in between. For many, the highlight was the Dr. Katherine Kelley Distinguished Lecture delivered by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. Dr. Mona is a pediatrician, scientist, researcher, activist and author of What the Eyes Don’t See. Her research and the work of her team exposed the deliberate effort to cover up the Flint water crisis and the lead poisoning of Flint, Michigan's children. 

APHL honors public health leaders at 2019 annual meeting

What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City

Jun 5, 2019

It was another great day at the annual meeting in St. Louis! As the attendees interviewed on this episode will share, some of the highlights included Poster Speed Dating, learning about new technology from exhibitors and, of course, networking. 

Follow #APHL on Twitter and Instagram for more updates!

Jun 4, 2019

We're in St. Louis for the 2019 APHL Annual Meeting! This episode is a round-up of all the excitement of the first day. It was fascinating and exhausting, just as the annual meeting should be.

Follow #APHL on Twitter and Instagram for more updates!

Apr 24, 2019

Every area of our country is unique in ways that make public health laboratory work vary from one state or locality to another. But just as Alaska is different from the lower-48 states in most ways, their public health lab's work is too. Have you ever considered all the ways it might be different to work in the Alaska state lab in Fairbanks? This episode of Lab Culture reveals some of the many ways in which working in Alaska is unlike anywhere else.

Jayme Parker, manager, Virology Unit, Alaska State Public Health Laboratory (Fairbanks)

Nisha Fowler, microbiologist, Alaska State Public Health Laboratory (Fairbanks)


Virology Unit of the Alaska State Public Health Laboratory

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities -- FAQs

Alaska's permafrost/ice lenses


Apr 3, 2019

In the spring of 2018 patients suffering from profuse bleeding swamped emergency rooms in Illinois and Wisconsin. The cause? Synthetic cannabinoids laced with rat poison.

When an outbreak of contaminated synthetic cannabinoids reached Wisconsin in 2018, scientists at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH) rushed to develop the first quantitative method for diagnostic testing of brodifacoum, a powerful anticoagulant used in rat poison. Thanks to their work, patients with brodifacoum poisoning can now be treated with a precisely calibrated dose of vitamin K and that treatment can be ended when it is no longer medically necessary. Previously, physicians had to guess when to end treatment and re-start it if they guessed wrong.

WSLH’s Noel Stanton, Chemical Emergency Response Coordinator, and Bill Krick, an Advanced Chemist in the Chemical Emergency Response Unit, speak with Public Affairs Director Jan Klawitter about the test’s development and the outbreak that made it necessary.



Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH)

Accolades for WSLH’s Chemical Emergency Response Team

Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2, Spice) – Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Lab Matters: Indiana and Wisconsin Respond to Synthetic Cannabinoid Contamination

Laboratory Response Network (LRN)

APHL in Action archives

Feb 19, 2019

What happens inside a public health lab when a health threat sends it into overdrive? Find out how the North Dakota lab met a surge in West Nile Virus in 2018 in this APHL in Action Lab Culture Extra.


APHL in Action Archives

CDC Preliminary Maps and Data for 2018, West Nile Virus

CDC ArboNET Disease Map

North Dakota Department of Health – West Nile Virus

Key Factors Influencing the Incidence of West Nile Virus in Burleigh County, North Dakota

Feb 8, 2019

Kevin Libuit went from the APHL-CDC Bioinformatics Fellowship to a contractor to working full-time as a bioinformatician at the Virginia state lab (VA Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS)). First he talks about when he discovered bioinformatics as a field and how the fellowship propelled his career. Then Kevin takes the mic and interviews Dr. Denise Toney, director of Virginia DCLS, about the value and growing need for bioinformaticians in public health labs. 



APHL-CDC Fellowships

APHL-CDC Bioinformatics Fellowships

Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS)

APHL Off the Bench (new Facebook group!)

Dec 3, 2018

Fifty-five years ago, newborn screening was born. At the time, though, that little heel prick was performed to screen for only one condition: phenylketonuria (PKU). Without early intervention, babies born with PKU faced severe cognitive, behavioral and other neurological disorders. The advent of PKU newborn screening allowed health care providers and families to make critical changes to a baby’s diet to prevent those consequences.

Today, December 3, is PKU Awareness Day. It’s hard to say where newborn screening would be without that first PKU test. And 55 years later, it’s hard to say where newborn screening would be without the families and individuals living with PKU who have shared their stories to convey the value of this simple test. One of those individuals is Kevin Alexander.

Kevin has been a leader in the PKU community simply by sharing his story and his experiences living with PKU. He has spoken at conferences and events around the world, created a video documentary about his life, served as a leader and friend to others living with PKU, and now he shares his voice in a new podcast.

For this PKU Awareness Day, we are sharing Kevin’s podcast, PKU Life Podcast with Kevin Alexander. We are so appreciative of Kevin’s willingness to both share with and listen to those in the newborn screening community. Kevin, thank you for your leadership, friendship and generosity!


PKU Life Podcast with Kevin Alexander – Facebook

PKU Life Podcast with Kevin Alexander – Instagram

PKU Life Podcast with Kevin Alexander – Twitter  

APHL’s Newborn Screening Program

APHL blog posts about PKU

PKU Awareness Day


Aug 30, 2018

Joanne Bartkus, APHL's board president and director of the Public Health Laboratory at the Minnesota Department of Health, sat down with Scott Becker, our executive director, and Gynene Sullivan, editor of Lab Matters magazine, to talk about priorities for the year. Their conversation ranged from informatics to health equity to... snuggling with a bat?!

Joanne Bartkus, PhD, D(ABMM)
Director, Public Health Laboratory, Minnesota Department of Health

Scott J. Becker, MS
Executive director, Association Public Health Laboratories​


Lab Matters

Lab Matters -- Android app

Lab Matters -- iTunes app

APHL Board of Directors




Jun 5, 2018

Day 3 of the APHL Annual Meeting was a big one! We had several captivating sessions including this year's Katherine Kelley Distinguished Lecturer, Maryn McKenna, renowned journalist and author. Listen to today's episode to hear a few attendees share what they took away from the day.

Jun 4, 2018

A huge component of any APHL Annual Meeting is the exhibit hall. This year we were joined by 68 exhibitors, all of whom were sharing new and interesting products, services and technologies with meeting attendees. In today's episode, we chat with representatives from Roche, Bio-Rad Laboratories and Hologic. 

Learn more about APHL's corporate membership and other opportunities.

Jun 3, 2018

We are in sunny Pasadena, California for the 2018 APHL Annual Meeting! Here is a little look at what we did on the first day. Stay tuned for updates every day through June 5.

2018 APHL Annual Meeting and Twelfth Government Environmental Laboratory Conference

Join the conversation using #APHL on:




May 24, 2018

The people who work in public health laboratories make a difference in your community daily. In this third episode, members of the Emerging Leader Program cohort 10 sit down with their peers to hear how their public health laboratory careers have made an impact.

ELP cohort 10 members featured in this episode:


  • Degina Booker has been working in the public health lab for 40 years and is now the administrative services director for the Mississippi Public Health Lab.
  • Dr. Burton Wilcke, Jr., now retired, has worked in public health laboratories for over 35 years in Vermont, Michigan and California. Dr. Wilcke remains active in the public health laboratory community as a member of both the APHL Workforce Development Committee  and the Global Health Committee.
  • Dr. Musau WaKabongo, now retired, was the Public Health Laboratory Director at the Placer County Public Health Laboratory  and has worked in several public health laboratories in California for 13 years.
  • Dr. Maria Ishida has been working in public health for 11 years and is now the director of the New York State Food Laboratory.

Are you thinking about a career in a public health laboratory?

May 17, 2018

Maybe the saying is true: you don’t know what you had until it is gone. For the families in this episode, the absence of public health laboratories turned their worlds upside down and negatively impacted both the present and future. These families represent us all and highlight the vulnerabilities that would exist if there were no public health laboratories working continuously to keep our communities and populations safe.

This is the second episode in the series produced by members of the Emerging Leader Program cohort 10. 

Emerging Infectious Disease Response:

APHL’s Infectious Disease Program

Laboratory Response Network (LRN)

Interviewer: Kate Wainwright, PhD, D(ABMM), HCLD (ABB), MPH, MSN, RN, deputy director, Public Health Protection and Laboratory Services, Indiana State Department of Health

Expert: Peter Shult, PhD, director, Communicable Disease Division; associate director, Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Newborn Screening:

APHL’s Newborn Screening Program


Baby’s First Test

Interviewer: Josh Rowland, MBA, MT(ASCP), manager, Training and Workforce Development, Association of Public Health Laboratories 

Expert: Miriam Schachter, PhD, research scientist 3, New Jersey Department of Health, Newborn Screening Laboratory


Foodborne Illness:

APHL’s Food Safety Program

5 Things You Didn’t Know (but Need to Know) About Listeria

Interviewer: Samir Patel, PhD, FCCM, (D)ABMM, clinical microbiologist, Public Health Ontario; Toronto, Canada

Expert: Vanessa Allen, MD, MPH, medical microbiologist, chief of microbiology, Public Health Ontario; Toronto, Canada


Narrator:  Erin Bowles, B.S., MT(ASCP), Wisconsin Clinical Laboratory Network coordinator and co-biosafety officer, Communicable Disease Division, Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Contributor: Emily Travanty, PhD, scientific director, Laboratory Services Division, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Special thanks to Jim Hermanson at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene for his help in recording this episode.

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