Using a simple inquiry as a teaching moment, Berkeley Water Center PhD student Scott Miller invited fellow students into the lab to learn about flow cytometry and its applications to measure water quality.

Miller was approached by fellow PhD student Erica Fuhrmeister, who both work under Professor Kara Nelson, about using flow cytometry to test a water sample. Flow cytometry counts bacteria by laser to measure water quality.

While flow cytometry has been in use for several decades, it is only recently that it has gained prominence in labs to measure water quality.

“Not a lot of people use it yet, but they could,” says Miller.

And that’s why Miller opened up the opportunity to make the experience a demonstration, which Professor Lisa Alvarez-Cohen’s post doc Xiang Chen Wu, PhD student Emily Cook and, graduate student Eric Troyer, and Nelson’s lab tech Kaitlyn Janis took advantage of.

After running Fuhrmeister’s sample, the group also ran a test on the building’s tap water. Miller says this technology is gaining momentum to test water samples and works well for testing the efficacy of chlorine disinfection at water treatment centers and as it comes out of the tap.