Today's Clinical Lab - News, Editorial and Products for the Clinical Laboratory
A portrait headshot of Luis Plaza with an illustrated stage spotlight shining down onto him from above.
Until he was immersed in it, Plaza was unaware of the world of clinical microbiology, despite the ubiquity of lab testing.
Today's Clinical Lab

How a Medical Lab Scientist Became a Podcaster

In his podcast, Let's Talk Micro, Luis Plaza hopes to change the narrative of this hidden field

María Carla Rosales Gerpe, MSc, PhD

María Rosales Gerpe, MSc, PhD, is a freelance scientific writer with more than a decade of research experience in molecular biology and gene therapy. She's also a reporter for Metroland at the Cambridge Times, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.

ViewFull Profile
Learn about ourEditorial Policies.
Published:Jun 11, 2024
|4 min read
Register for free to listen to this article
Listen with Speechify
0:00
4:00
 Photo portrait of Luis Plaza

Luis Plaza, MLS (ASCP)CM, is a lead medical laboratory scientist in microbiology at a hospital system in Orlando, FL. He is also the microbiology instructor for the Medical Laboratory Sciences program at the University of Central Florida.

A Puerto Rican, lead medical laboratory scientist at AdventHealth and microbiology adjunct laboratory instructor at University of Central Florida, Luis Plaza is an introvert—soft spoken and patient, he always listens before uttering the first word. He’s not the life of the party, he confesses, much to the chagrin of the Latin community that beckons extroverts. Now a successful MLS and the host of the popular microbiology podcast Let’s Talk Micro, Plaza shared his journey with Today's Clinical Lab.

Joining the military and finding purpose in microbiology

“I had a bit of difficulty transitioning into college life,” says Plaza. “I had great grades (a 4.0 GPA), but school seemed unstructured,” he says, alluding that he struggled with the free time or gaps between classes. “I don’t think I was mature enough for that process,” he says, and that’s why he joined the military, specifically the competitive U.S. Navy, with which he served eight years. There, he found the structure he was searching for—and a love for microbiology.

Though he came to his insights on his own, the role of maturity in academic success has been examined. According to a 2020 study published in the journal Psicothem, though intelligence played the biggest role in influencing academic performance, maturity level did positively correlate with academic achievement.1 In the study, psychological maturity was defined as “the ability to take on obligations, to make responsible decisions that take into account one’s own characteristics and needs, and to accept the consequences of one’s own actions.”

In the Navy, Plaza found a sense of community and collective responsibility. “I came out with a strong work ethic,” he adds, you can’t call in sick because people’s lives are at stake. “You come out with a sense of responsibility, which helped me to not lose sight of my goals in life.”

“My interest in microbiology started when I was in the military,” says Plaza, who signed up for the Navy’s medical laboratory technician program upon learning he could complete an associate degree while in active service.

Though unsure whether microbiology would be his career path, once at the lab, his life changed. “The theory and the work were fascinating,” he says, “I fell in love with it. It really appealed to me … it feels very natural, like this is what I am supposed to be doing.”

Education Snapshot
YearEducationFocus
2011–2013BSc, clinical laboratory medicine/medical technology/technologistLaboratory medicine
2021–2024 (expected)MSc, microbiologyClinical microbiology
Work Experience
YearExperienceFocus
2021–2021AdventHealth, Apopka, FLMicrobiology, hematology, chemistry, and blood bank
2013–presentAdventHealth, Orlando, FLMicrobiology, hematology, and chemistry

Shining a light on the hidden world of clinical microbiology

Until he was immersed in it, Plaza was unaware of the world of clinical microbiology, despite the ubiquity of lab testing. “We all get tests at some point in our lives, but we don’t think about what’s happening,” he says. Plaza is right about the lack of insight into microbiology.

Only 3 percent of applicants and students enrolled in osteopathic medicine schools for instance have completed a minor or major in microbiology, and less than 17 percent completed microbiology courses, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Microbiology Education.2 

This could be because of the way clinical microbiology is taught. According to a 2019 study published in BMC Medical Education, “students struggle to cover the content and clinically contextualize basic microbiology.”3 

In his podcast, Let’s Talk Micro, Plaza hopes to change the narrative of this hidden field by not only delving into theory but also interviewing experts in the field to highlight concrete ways in which microbiology is applied to the world.

In the lab, Plaza also noticed that the fast-paced nature of the field sometimes led to a gap in knowledge for those at the bench—he often had to learn things on his own. The job also requires a lot of confidence, he says, which is best built through teamwork, mentorship, and practice. “So, I thought of making a micro club, something where, if you’re relatively fresh out of school, or even if you’re experienced, we could come together and bring everyone up to the same level of knowledge,” he says.

But life got busy, and the micro club never materialized, until Plaza had another lightbulb moment: What about a podcast? “A podcast is something convenient for listeners, you know?” he remembers thinking, “you can listen from pretty much anywhere while you’re doing things.”

With the podcast, there could be a way to impart knowledge to both people aspiring to pursue a career as a medical laboratory scientist and those who are unaware of how laboratory testing works and why it matters.

The Let’s Talk Micro podcast now ranks number two with a five-star rating in the Top 20 Life Science Podcasts, according to the Goodpods website, and a near five-star rating on Spotify, as of May 6, 2024. 

When he’s not podcasting about microbiology, Plaza has a full schedule working full-time and teaching at the University of Central Florida, as well as completing a master’s degree; still, in his free time, he enjoys reading and traveling.

References:

  1. Morales-Vives F et al. Predicting academic achievement in adolescents: The role of maturity, intelligence and personality. Psicothema. 2020;32(1):84–91. doi:10.7334/psicothema2019.262
  2. Ramos RL et al. Pre-medical preparation in microbiology among applicants and matriculants in osteopathic medical school in the United States. J Microbiol Biol Educ. 2017;18(3):18.3.61. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i3.1372
  3. Stevens NT et al. Can e-learning improve the performance of undergraduate medical students in Clinical Microbiology examinations? BMC Medical Education. 2019;7:408. Doi:10.1186/s12909-019-1843-0