Biology students learn about a hot science field from a Drexel student

Most people, especially high school students have probably never heard of histotechnology or a histotechnician.  It’s a job where scientists prepare slides with the tissues of organisms.  Sarah Kotter, a student enrolled in a one-year program at Drexel University is studying to become a histotechnologist.  On Thursday, May 2nd, Sarah came to West Deptford High School to talk to three freshman honors biology classes about histotechnology and what she is planning to do in the future.

Kotter first started explaining what histotechnology is.  A histotechnician takes samples of tissues delivered from doctors or detectives and puts them on a slide to be tested and investigated. Kotter said that she usually makes 2-3 slides every work day, and her work takes six hours.  The tissues that are put onto the slides are from different organisms, like people and animals.  Once Kotter receives the tissue, she makes the slide in the lab, packages it up, and sends it off to be tested for diseases.

Histotechnology plays a big role in the health of many patients.  Kotter sometimes works with autopsies and biopsies, which is when doctors remove a mole or tissue from someone’s skin and tests it for diseases like cancer.  Without histotechnology, it would be more difficult for doctors to determine what is wrong with their patients.  Their diagnosis could also be wrong, and the doctors might treat the patient for the wrong disease. “Histotechnology is so important because it can ultimately change someone’s life,” said Kotter.

There is currently a very big shortage of histotechnicians in the United States as well as around the world.  Kotter is only one of six applicants that are involved in the Drexel program. “Histotechnology has a shortage of workers because a lot of histotechnicians are retiring and a lot of young people don’t know about it and are just not interested in the field,” said Kotter.

Because there is a shortage of jobs in the field, it will be easier for Kotter to get a job.  In fact, she already has several lined up for when she completes the Drexel program, one at her dermatologist’s office.

Histotechnologists make anywhere between $20,000 and $125,000 per year.  Kotter said that she hopes to be at the top end of that salary range since she will have two degrees when she graduates.