by Dr. Christopher Scull

Academic medical centers have traditionally relied on the pharmaceutical industry to perform preclinical studies for new drugs because of the tremendous resources required for FDA-regulated work.  However,industry sponsors are now demanding more preclinical work from academic scientists before entering partnerships fordrug development.  The result of this shift is an increased demand for FDA-regulated preclinical studies that are compliant with regulations for Good Laboratory Practices (GLP).  By establishing in-house GLP testing facilities, academic centers can streamline drug development and perform studies at a much lower cost than contracting work with outside labs.  Implementation of a GLP-compliant program, however, is fraught with challenges.  Even the newest animal care facilities may not be properly equipped for GLP compliance, and animal care staff are frequently unaccustomed to the increased scrutiny and documentation that are required by the FDA.  This session will review the FDA requirements for GLP-compliant animal studies, and discuss the current challenges in preparing for FDA audits and training staff to work in a GLP environment.

Click here to read about the speaker


A standard based on a strong customer focus, involvement of top management, and continual improvement.

by Pam Huber

The Laboratory Animal Science industry is very familiar with the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC), but what is the International Standards Organization (ISO) and what role does ISO Certification play in enhancing quality programs?
This session will explain how ISO 9001:2008 Certification and the ISO Standard enhance and complement a quality program, facilitate customer site audits, and much more.    

Click here to read about the speaker


Research Laboratory Security Risks

by John Sancenito

Anti-research movements, including animal rights and environmental extremists, pose a serious threat to animal research laboratories.  This session will focus on evaluating risk based on physical security measures, policies and procedures, and practices in the research facility setting.   The primary goal of the presentation will be to:

  • Identify internal and external security risks to research laboratories;
  • Identify potential liability or risk to employees, visitors, the general public and organizational mission;
  • Evaluate the key areas where risk can be mitigated, including physical barriers, security technology, staff responsibilities, and policies and procedures

Topics to be discussed include:

  • The goals, tactics, trends, ideology and methodology of anti-research groups and the threat to medical research laboratories.
  • Activist action methods such as office invasions, business occupations, animal liberations, arson /bombings, and undercover infiltration.   
  • Statistics on extremist activity by industry type, illegal actions and geographic region.  
  • Methods used by activist groups to gather information and intelligence on targeted laboratories.
  • Physical Security measures including building grounds and perimeter, landscaping, parking lots, architecture, lighting, communications, safes, key control, utilities, security patrols and electronic intrusion detection systems. 
  • Policies, procedures and practices related to: visitor management, access and movement control, pre-employment screening, lockdown procedures, crisis management, business continuity and disaster planning. 
  • IT infrastructure, protection of confidential or sensitive data, vulnerabilities and practices.  
  • Vendor risk, due diligence and screening procedures.  

Don't miss this and more at the Age of Auditing Symposium on February 3-4, 2015 at the ACE Conference Center in Lafayette Hills, PA.  

Click here to read about the speaker



Vigilance in protecting animal welfare and maintaining fully compliant animal care programs is more important than ever.

by Alan Dittrich

Biomedical research with animals is regulated at the Federal, state and sometimes the municipal levels. Laws that affect animal research attempt to codify the minimum acceptable level of animal care and use as well as to protect human health and safety. They are implemented within research organizations in order to earn the privilege of working with animals. Research organizations occasionally must adapt to incremental changes in those laws.
But now a whole new gathering of forces is at work trying to bring about much more dramatic changes in the legal situation for research with animals. In the State House and in the courtroom, legislators and attorneys are acting in new ways to minimize or even end the use of animals in research by creating high or insurmountable legal barriers.

If these new efforts are successful, animal research could either stop or relocate. The first could be devastating to knowledge and health; the second would create a whole new set of auditing challenges. And even if neither of these extreme situations occurs, opening the door for animal cruelty charges against researchers, allowing private right of action and aesthetic injury claims against research organizations, implementing “do no harm” laws would all have the effect of significantly changing the auditor’s work.

How these changes will impact animal care programs is unclear at this point.  What is clear though is the ever increasing need for vigilance in protecting animal welfare and maintaining fully compliant animal care programs that meet or even exceed best practices.  Managing animal care programs is a collaborative effort involving the veterinary staff, animal care staff, quality assurance auditors and the IACUC.  Robust internal and external auditing programs as well as formal post approval monitoring programs are critical elements to successfully navigating the challenges of the increasingly more complex regulatory and legal environments that impact the biomedical research community.

We will review some proposed laws and recent court cases. Animal law – often practiced as animal rights law – is one of the fastest growing sections of the bar in the US, and with more lawyers come more cases, more novel legal theories and a greater need for animal research organizations to be “legally” alert. And, as both a cause of and a result of changing human/animal relations, the legislative landscape for animal research is changing, too.

Some of the possible areas of discussion: challenges to the constitutionality of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act; use of Endangered Species designations to remove animals from research settings; animal cruelty charges against research organizations and researchers; novel theories such as legal personhood for animals and the cases that come from it; “do no harm” bills; mandatory “adoption” bills; private cause of action for animal cruelty bills; open records laws; and others.

Don't miss this and more at the Age of Auditing Symposium on February 3-4, 2015 at the ACE Conference Center in Lafayette Hills, PA.   

Click here to read about the speaker


An opportunity to learn from the experience of our neighbors

by Emi Yano

Designing an auditing program for animal research in any scenario is challenging.  Multiple and diverse factors, from regulatory requirements to research culture to resources, need to be considered in the process.  This session will give the Canadian perspective of regulatory auditing, focusing on the creation and implementation of a post-approval monitoring program at one of Canada’s largest universities.

Don't miss this and more at the Age of Auditing Symposium on February 3-4, 2015 at the ACE Conference Center in Lafayette Hills, PA.

Click here to read about the speaker


Working collaboratively with laboratory personnel to meet oversight mandates

by Jennifer Davis

Continuing oversight of research activities is required by federal laws, regulations, and policies, but how this is accomplished is left to the individual institution. At Penn, the research community wanted to respond to this oversight mandate, but sought a partnering type of approach with the IACUC and the Office of Animal Welfare (OAW). Within the OAW at Penn, our mission, as compliance liaisons, is to work openly and cooperatively with the scientific community. This helps the laboratory personnel to view compliance as a tool to facilitate their research objectives and assists the overall institutional compliance.

Don't miss this and more at the Age of Auditing Symposium on February 3-4, 2015 at the ACE Conference Center in Lafayette Hills, PA.

Click here to read about the speaker



How can you be sure what your findings really mean?

by Shameen Afif-Rider and Donna Goldsteen

Auditing a facility requires a strong understanding of regulatory requirements, and industry standards.  But even then it can be difficult to know what findings are truly critical to the success or failure of a program.  This session will provide examples of potential issues and how they may or may not impact the success of your projects.

Don't miss this and more at the Age of Auditing Symposium on February 3-4, 2015 at the ACE Conference Center in Lafayette Hills, PA.  

Click here to read about the speaker


With September comes school!  From starting kindergarten to beginning high school. Lots of kids are beginning a whole new year of learning and adventures. College campuses are again full with the hustle and bustle of students.  And many researchers are beginning new projects with the influx of student scholars.  

That keeps trainers very busy in making sure everyone has the tools to ensure high standards of animal care. Whether it is preparing staff to take an AALAS Technician Certification Exam, teaching proper husbandry skills, or conducting a biomethodology lab, we know that a well-trained workforce results in quality research leading to cures and treatments for both people and animals.  

It always amazes me when I talk with a trainer in our field. Each one always seems to have an unbelievable number of job responsibilities and even more volunteer commitments.  

Kudos to all the trainers out there - juggling all of those important tasks - with one goal in mind - to make the world a better place for everyone!


By William Singleton


This past April, at the LAMA meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, I gave a presentation on Demystifying Motivation and Maximizing Engagement.    The session sparked excellent group dialog and provided guidance on ways to maximize personal motivation, as well as, improve engagement of employees. The presentation was repeated twice and with each session the attendees came away with similar positive experiences. 

I’d like to share a summary of some research on the topic of motivation and its importance in workplace productivity.  These findings helped to create the frame work for the presentation given at the LAMA meeting.

The Questions:

“How do I motivate my people?” “Why do some of my staff constantly under-perform even though they know how to do the work?” “The energy in my office is really low, what can I do?”  

I've heard these questions over and over leading me to wonder, “Is it possible to have a standard mechanism for motivating others?  Is there one “magic bullet” that can be used to get everyone motivated?”

These questions caused me to look at motivation at a very fundamental level.  The first question to be answered was, “Is there a standard mechanism for motivating others?”  Then, I proposed a second question, “Does one’s level of motivation really matter?”  In other words, can people perform adequately even if they aren't 100% motivated to do the work?  What I discovered was a lot of well-researched data that led to a better understanding of motivation. 

The Answers:

Motivations are as unique as each person; what motivates one may not motivate another.   The standard mechanism for motivating others turns out to be quite simple, ask what motivates those around you and then find ways to engage their motivators.   So yes, there is a standard mechanism for motivating others.  Unfortunately, there is no “magic bullet” when it comes to motivation.

For the second question, “Does ones level of motivation really matter?” What was found through my research is that people completely unmotivated consistently under-perform, this was not so surprising.  I also found that slightly under motivated individuals tend to do just enough to get the job done.   In other words, the slightly under motivated individuals may still complete their job responsibilities, yet it will be done with no level of creativity, enjoyment or desire to realize the organization’s success. 

The Conclusion:

One’s level of motivation does matter; motivation has a direct correlation with productivity.  A decrease in motivation will result in a decrease in productivity. The greater the decrease in motivation the greater the decrease in productivity.

Taking the time to find out what motivates your staff will help you tailor programs and activities to maintain a high level of motivation and, as a result, gain greater productivity.   

AuthorWilliam Singleton

Tip Number One. Stop trying to motivate your staff!  Across our industry, laboratory animal care facilities are made up all kinds of employees, from all walks of life, different age groups, different genders and different cultures. Some are long time employees and some are new hires. Although the approach to “stop trying to motivate your staff” may seem a bit harsh, and maybe even counterproductive, it’s probably no more unrealistic than trying one incentive program after another with little to no effect.   

We work in an environment where people are asked to do complex tasks. People must be motivated in order to ensure they are doing their best. But making them motivated is not your job. People aren’t horses. Carrot and stick motivational efforts don’t work in our environment. The reason why one person pursues a career in laboratory animal care may be profoundly different from another. 

Ask your staff why they have this job. What is their motivation for coming to work day in and day out?  Discover their “why" and you will find their motivation.

 Here are some tips to boost your staff's motivation:

  1. Ask them. No one can tell you what motivates them better than they can. Take the time to see what motivates your staff and then work on finding ways to engage those motivations.
  2. People First. Good leaders know that understanding employees and helping them to understand each other helps to form deep, professional relationships. This ensures effective team work and efficient operations.
  3. Mentorship. Internal support is key to nurturing the development of staff. Mentors not only provide guidance to new employees, but help seasoned employees, who can act as mentors, contribute to the current and future success of the organization.
  4. Set a Good Example. If you want your staff to work hard, you need to work hard too. Make sure you are motivated to do the job you have been asked to do. Are you motivated? If so, great! If not, it will be a difficult task to motivate those around you. Discover your why!
  5. Recognition. Consistently recognize employees who go to the next level to ensure the success of their coworkers and the organization. These are engaged employees and are a huge assets to your organization.
  6. Create a Culture of Care. A strong organizational culture of care helps staff feel that they are valued, a part of something more than just a job. This culture of care is for the employees as well as the animals we serve. 
  7. Others. Hiring the right people and gracefully release those that don’t want to be there.  Train and develop your staff. Provide opportunity for advancement. Create targeted incentive programs.

Employees are the foundation of any operation, take the time to find out what motivates them and why. When properly selected, trained, and reinforced, these employees will thrive when given the opportunity. 

Read more

14 Tips to Engage Your Employees in 2014 by Jose Costa

To Motivate Employees, Apply This Scientific Rule Of Leadership by Micah Solomon

The Puzzle of Motivation by Daniel Pink

Start with Why by Simon Senek

Ever wonder how much it actually costs to develop and provide training?  We often find trainers pulling their hair out trying to explain “the numbers” to their bosses, or others, who are demanding the development of a training program.  In most cases, we don’t have the information, or the time to get the information, to share with the higher ups to help them understand that training program development takes time…and money.  A formula that illustrates the scope of where the costs come from is shown below:

Cost of Training = Salary (Hourly rate + Benefits) + Time (Plan, Development and Delivery) + Supplies (All materials, equipment, technology and animals)

Here are some quick facts to help fellow trainers provide “the numbers:”

·         The cost of developing one instructor-led training class from start to finish takes 40-185 hours which can equal $1240.00 to $5750.00 in labor alone.

·         The cost of developing one online training module takes between 93-154 hours which equals $2900.00 to $4800.00 in labor.

·         It takes an average of five hours (a minimum of $155.00) to provide one two-hour hands-on training program for up to 5 people. This accounts for preparing/setting up, providing/cleaning up and assessing/documenting.  This doesn’t include the time it takes to develop and get the program approved.  

So one training program that includes an online module, an instructor led seminar, and a hands on lab can take 375 hours to develop and deliver and equal as much as $10,000.00! And this just accounts for the trainer’s time!

In addition, these numbers don’t take in to account the Value of Training which considers compliance issues, employee morale and turnover and other factors that affect daily operations.


Bureau of Labor Statistics. Training and Development Specialist

Reducing Time to Develop One Hour of Instruction

Time to Develop One Hour of Training

Tobey, Deborah.  Needs Assessment Basics, ASTD Press, 2005


By Melissa Hunsley  

Last fall I conducted an informal survey of IACUC administrators about their Post Approval Monitoring (PAM) programs, focusing on the success rate of PAM programs, and the reasons for success or lack of success.  Fifty eight percent of people said they considered their PAM program to be “successful” (n=60).  The follow up question for this was “why?” to which 73% of respondents replied it was because their researchers have “bought into” their program.  Close behind at 71% was that their PAM program has “competent, likeable, fair PAM staff”.

Everyone with a PAM program, or thinking of starting one, should pay close attention to these points.  Yes, it is often difficult to gain support (and funding) from higher-level administrators for yet another research administration program such as post-approval monitoring.  However, when you are successful in obtaining support for a program, it is absolutely essential that you put the initial work into gaining acceptance from the people who will be monitored.  Hiring a post approval monitor (or assigning this duty to existing staff), giving them a police cap and badge, and sending them off into research land to dole out citations will not win you much support from your community. In most situations the researchers will be apprehensive (at best) about a new program where they will be the focus of compliance monitoring. So what can you do to ease their fears?

After writing and approving the policies describing your PAM program, the SOPs for protocol audits and lab inspections, and the monitoring schedule, you can decide how to introduce the program to your researchers.  One idea is to put together a “welcome packet” with the facts, figures, authority given to you by the IACUC and IO, and maybe a cartoon or two to soften the mood.  Explain the procedures, the monitoring schedule, and introduce your staff.  Also consider hosting several (i.e. not just one) town hall meetings.  Have speakers at the meetings with sufficient authority- the IACUC Chair, the IO, influential department chairs, etc.  Serve coffee and cookies, and advertise well.  Does your institution have several campuses?  Host a town hall meeting at every campus so people don’t have to travel.  Are you at a college or university with new students each fall?  Host a town hall meeting at the beginning of each school year to introduce the program to newcomers.

Explain to everyone just what the PAM personnel will be doing, and what the goal of the program is.  Are you expecting an AAALAC site visit next year?  Maybe the goal is to have a stellar final report from them with no mandatory items for correction.  Expecting a visit from the USDA any day?  Maybe the goal is to have no citations.  Explain what the expectations are, but also reassure people that the PAM staff are not meant to be police, but meant to be “partners in compliance” or whatever your catch phrase may be.  Many institutions label the PAM staff as “PAM liaisons” or other such language that de-emphasizes the police-like nature.  Whatever your model, remember the old phrase: you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Finally, don’t forget your veterinary and husbandry staff!  They will be monitored also, and surely some of the expired drugs and incomplete records you will find (and unfortunately once you start looking – you will find) will belong to husbandry and veterinary staff.  They could need separate training sessions, where specific examples of what you are looking for are presented.  In addition, don’t forget that your husbandry staff are the “eyes and ears” of the animal facility.  Develop a relationship with them.  Attend their staff meetings, talk to them about the things they see and hear every day in the facility. Most of all listen to them. They should know that you are there for them if they see something they have a question about or feel uncomfortable with.  They should also know that if they do report something to you: first, there will be no reprisals against them, and second, you have the authority to do something about it.  If they tell you something in confidence and you don’t look into it, and/or you don’t follow up with them about what was done, your credibility (and that of the PAM program) goes out the window.

Post-approval monitoring does not need to be a painful process. As the 8th ed. of the Guide says, “PAM programs are more likely to succeed when the institution encourages an educational partnership with investigators.” (p 34). It will be up to you to nourish these vital relationships within your program.

Melissa Hunsley, ACUP Consulting 

Melissa is the owner of ACUP Consulting, a company that provides educational and affordable training for small and large institutions. She was a speaker for the 2013 "The Art of Auditing" Conference.  View proceedings under "The Age of Auditing" Conference announcement here.

AuthorCaroline Thompson

Do you have a tip for training that really works?  We love listening and learning about tips that trainers use to make their training more engaging, memorable, and effective.  Check us out each month for a new training tip...and consider sharing yours with us on our Facebook page or consider writing a blog for us.  Click here for our first tip on some simple ways to make every training memorable and effective.




By Courtney Yates

Before entering the animal research world, I had only heard very little about the industry and the opportunities that it held.  I was so excited when I received the call from UT-Memphis saying that I was offered a position as an Animal Technician.

Nervousness, a bit of anxiety, a little overwhelmed-these were just a few of the feelings that I experienced my first day as an animal technician.  I remember going into my first day thinking that I would try to learn and retain as much information as I possibly could.  I also definitely remember receiving a decent portion of knowledge about animal research, what kind of research animals I would be working with, the veterinary and managerial staff, the LACU, the different areas of the LACU, orientation information, HR policies, and additional resources that would be beneficial to me in my career because I went home just about every day of my first week with a headache.

After my first month working and learning, I came to the realization that I knew that in order for me to be truly successful, to prosper, grow, and develop in this industry I would need help.  In my first week as an animal technician it was instilled/encouraged that all LACU staff should achieve AALAS certification because that was the key to your success and growth in the animal research industry.  That sounded all well and good; but, it was always a lingering thought in the back of my mind that I pondered “surely, just achieving AALAS certification can’t be it.  There has to be more to “my success” than just achieving AALAS certifications.”

I made it my goal-a desire-to do more, to achieve more.  In wanting to do more, I knew I had to establish goals and a timeline for myself.  I knew that I needed a support system-individuals who possessed a bank of knowledge and expertise that I could use; I needed a mentor.

Dr. Mildred Randolph, DVM, Sherry Frazier, and Ernestine Hayes were instrumental in “showing me the ropes” of the animal research industry and helping me grow and develop.  I contribute my success as an animal technician at UT-Memphis to these 3 individuals.  They took time out of their schedules to help me and learn about technical skills, enhance my communication skills, strengthen my conceptual skills, become more of a professional, learn about the concept of leadership and how to be an effective leader.  Even though it wasn’t verbalized-I could tell that Dr. Randolph, Sherry, and Ernestine cared about me and my future.

When I moved onto University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, TX, I still kept in contact with my mentors in Tennessee.  However, I needed to find and establish a connection with a new mentor a little closer to home (in Dallas).  Julie Wood, ARC Program Manager has stepped into the role as my new mentor and is helping me continue on my path to bigger and better things.

Entering into this industry not knowing what was ahead of me and not knowing what to look forward to-was scary; it was overwhelming.  Mentorship was/is the key to my success.  I was able to grow and establish relationships with leaders in the industry; and, in due time, I became a mentor myself.  Mentorship in laboratory animal science is essential because it allows for the development of future leaders and it enhances seasoned leaders in the field.  Mentorship establishes a connection between the entry-level employee and a leader.  The mentee engages in a fruitful, symbiotic relationship that will contribute to growth, development, and success.  Even though it may not be verbalized, the mentee comes to know that their mentor cares about them and their future.


AuthorCaroline Thompson


by Cindy Lockworth

In the veterinary team of a biomedical research facility, we strive to maintain the health and welfare of animals, as healthy animals produce valid and valuable data needed for vital research studies. Occasionally, we encounter unanticipated clinical cases that can be both challenging and interesting. This occurred during a recent study involving swine in our facility.

Due to their size and their specific anatomic and physiologic characteristics, swine have become extremely valuable in the field of biomedical research as surgical models, as well as research models for specific diseases such as atherosclerosis and septic shock. Pigs utilized in research are generally obtained from a range of health status levels which may include open/closed herds, high health herds or specific pathogen free sources. Thus, variations in management practices and the overall susceptibility of swine to certain conditions persist.

Recently, we had a 9 month old castrated Yorkshire enrolled in an IACUC approved study. The pig was part of a study involving two surgical procedures that did not require body cavity penetration. Following a single instance of regurgitation 3 months after surgery, the pig was clinically normal in appearance until 5 months post-op, at which time the pig began a 3 week period of repeated incidents of regurgitation.

Prior to the onset of clinical signs, the pig was well conditioned, active, and growing. During the 3 weeks of regurgitation, the pig was observed to have a voracious appetite, yet began a slow and consistent decline in weight. The pig remained adequately hydrated. With the exception of declining body condition, no other abnormalities were noted upon physical exam.

From the onset of regurgitation until euthanasia, the pig was treated medically. Omeprazole and ondansetron were administered. Simplicef was given for a 6 day duration due to nasal discharge. Feed was modified in frequency, volume, and consistency; consistency ranged from thick gruels to liquid soy protein diet.


As is commonly the case in the research environment, no diagnostic work-up was performed in life. However, differentials for regurgitation included stricture, esophagitis, megaesophagus, or mass/tumor. Necropsy and histopathology investigations were performed. Gross examination confirmed the diagnosis of chronic gastroesophageal stricture with acquired megaesophagus.

Ulceration of the pars oesophagea region of the stomach has been described since the 1950’s in swine. Studies have shown that 32-65% of slaughter pigs have evidence of gastric ulcers. The pathogenesis remains unknown.

In this unusual and interesting case, the pig developed a persistent ulcer in the region of the gastroesphageal junction. Chronic inflammation and fibrosis caused a stricture of the lumen, resulting in a 4 mm diameter lumen which allowed only water to pass from the esophagus into the stomach. Although the differential diagnoses for gastric ulceration includes various infectious agents, in the research setting, stress is presumed to be a leading cause.

AuthorCaroline Thompson

By William Singleton -

This may be a prevailing topic but we believe it’s an important one.  In the past we have considered components to successful team building; clearly defined goals, individual accountability, trust, communication (effective) and recognition.   This article will build on this premise because it represents the core to creating a team.  Building a great team requires strict adherence to this premise along with a commitment to having the right people on your team filling the right roles.

Let’s assume that you have a great team.  You’ve got the right people doing their job better than you could have imagined.  Everyone in the group is clear on what their responsibilities are and does them with passion.  If a mistake is made amongst the team it’s quickly acknowledge corrected and steps implemented to reduce the likelihood of it happening in the future.  The general work atmosphere is refreshing, people get along well.  Communication couldn’t be better; in fact, one would say that within your team there is over communication, everyone knows what’s going on; from the office staff to the cage wash.  And it’s with great pride that you have implemented a recognition program that makes individuals within the team and the team as a whole feels valued and appreciated.

Well that was easy!

Now the rub -   How do you keep it great?  It is no small accident when greatness is achieved on any team, maintaining a team at a high level of effectiveness and efficiency is equally no small task and maybe a bit of a miracle.  Should you be so fortunate to have built or been a part of a great team that has sustained its greatness over many years than I suggest you have at least on reason to most grateful.

This next series of articles will be devoted to this topic of maintaining great teams.  I will expound on what I have learned from my observation of many teams and from which I have learned from Jim Collins author of How the Mighty Fall and Built to Last.   By considering how teams fail, we can learn from the mistakes of others and choose an alternate and better course.  Here are the 5 stages of a failing team we will explore:

  1.  Arrogance born out of rapid success
  2. Over Reaching – Building too quickly upon your success
  3. Failure to acknowledge drifts and deviations in your processes
  4. Grasping for salvation: There’s a problem and it’s Big!
  5. Death of a Team – The world no longer needs what you have to offer.

Just writing that is sobering!  It’s my hope that you have a great team.   That you go to bed on Sunday evening looking forward to the upcoming work week.  Even if that AALAC program description is due, the PIs are calling for you head because the per diems were raised last week ( 1st time in 10 years), you have several key staff away on holiday and it just feels like it’s time for a USDA visit.  And with all of that going on you can look forward to the work week because you have great people around you and together the team will get through it all continuing do what they do best.


AuthorCaroline Thompson

By Paula Clifford -

When I left my position at Penn to pursue ACTS full time, it was bitter sweet. I was leaving a job that I loved and coworkers that I enjoyed working with for the opportunity to eliminate my 3 hour per day commute and focus all my efforts on training, as opposed to training plus all the other things that come with working at an institution.  My first thoughts were, “What can I do to help programs provide more consistent training,” and “What could I have used as a trainer but didn’t have time to develop?”  Many programs have more than one person training new hires which can lead to slight inconsistencies that magnify overtime.  In addition, even those programs that have dedicated trainers, there is so much training to do, development of new tools and programs often get put lower on the priority list.  These facts led to the development of the ACTS Job Skills Training Program Modules.  Hundreds of hours by people with various experiences and backgrounds in research were dedicated to help develop tools for knowledgeable individuals (trainers, senior technicians, supervisors, etc.) to provide consistent training for husbandry, technical, and even clinical tasks.   These modules include everything needed for a program to provide consistent training with the flexibility to tailor the training to specific SOPs and other unique facility or program procedures.  There are five parts to each module:  A pre-assessment helps the trainer get to know their audience;  pre-requisite work, provides a foundation of knowledge for the trainee before they attend the actual training session; a lesson plan, guides the actual training session and ensures consistency between trainers; a post assessment, evaluates new knowledge and skills gained by the trainee; and finally, a performance support acts as a reference for trainees as they apply their new knowledge and skills back on the job.  My hope is that whether a trainer is tasked with building a training program from scratch, or attempting to refine a current training program, these tools will give anyone involved in training a head start.

AuthorCaroline Thompson

By Paula Clifford -

The Rodent Breeding and Colony Management Seminar and Vendor Fair started when I was a Training Coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania.  The research program was growing and housing space for rodents was becoming prime real estate, as was in most similar institutions.  One day I happened to be walking through one of the buildings between training sessions and began an informal conversation with a research technician.  I asked him how his lab was dealing with the need for more space.  He said, “If I managed my colony better, we would have plenty of space.”  I was shocked and started asking other researchers about their space and colony management practices.  I found the same story over and over again.  Things like genotyping too late, not weaning on time, and other common themes that reflected poor colony management, and therefore, a lot of wasted space.  From then on, I was determined to provide the tools needed for researchers to manage their colonies as efficient as possible to save both space and money.  We invited experts in rodent breeding and colony management, and vendors who provided products or services that could help researchers better manage their colonies and support their research to our first event in 2003.  We invited scientists from outside the institution and it was a success, for both researchers and vendors.  My favorite feedback from a researcher was, “Thank you for getting all this information all in one place!”  My favorite feedback from a vendor was, “I go to the Bio Fair where hundreds of people attend, but I get more people stopping at my table, and more direct leads, at this event.”   After I left Penn in 2009, I knew how much time and work it took to coordinate the event, and how much more training was now being provided by the training group, so ACTS asked the University of Pennsylvania if we could coordinate the event for them.   They said yes and after that we “took the show on the road.”  Since then, ACTS has hosted two events at Penn, one event at Baylor College of Medicine, and one event at Mount Sinai.  We continue to get positive feedback from both participants and vendors.


AuthorCaroline Thompson

Do you remember taking your last AALAS certification exam? Were you nervous that you hadn’t studied enough, or that maybe you studied the wrong information? For many of us, this is the case. Most facilities do not have a weekly class where you can go over information, share ideas, and develop test taking strategies. The AALAS certifications are an important part of our industry. Many of us have come to work in the field by chance, and these certifications are a way for us to show that we care enough about our work to go above and beyond the status quo. ACTS is committed to helping technicians advance in the field of laboratory animal medicine and has decided to create weekly, live, online courses designed to help you sit successfully for your AALAS exam.

Registration is open for our Online AALAS Certification Exam Prep Courses. These courses are offered at the ALAT, LAT and LATG levels and offer the convenience of recorded sessions in case you are not able to attend the weekly live session. The links below will take you to each of the exam’s registration pages. Go to our ‘online courses’ tab to learn more and register for upcoming classes!

AuthorCaroline Thompson

Written by Laura Klekar – Research Scientist and ACTS Consultant


Working with animals in research can be both rewarding and challenging. There are many different methods utilized in Biomedical Research to obtain scientific data. Collecting data from conscious animals can be one of the most challenging.  Not only is there consideration for the animal’s well-being and for collecting accurate data, but a relationship of cooperation also needs to be developed.

To properly and effectively gather data from a conscious animal, the Research Scientist must create an atmosphere of trust and active engagement with the laboratory animals. One of the main methods of creating this atmosphere is through a positively reinforced training and enrichment program. Without an effective training program in place that utilizes positive reinforcement, collecting data on a conscious animal can become time-consuming, difficult, result in needless repetition and may require the use of more animals. All of these go against the three R’s- Refinement, Reduce and Reuse.

There is always a need on Biomedical Research for high quality data while still maintaining high standards and adhering to regulations. Developing thought out procedures that include well-planned training programs leads to better data and adherence to regulations while maintaining the spirit of the 3R’s. Training programs that involve working with conscious animals need to consider many factors including– human and animal’s safety, the animal’s natural behaviors, time, research requirements and government regulations and policy.  The type of animal involved in the study will also determine the nature of the training program. Some lab animals such as rabbits, rats and guinea pigs may require only a few training periods before data collection. Lab animals such as dogs, primates, pigs and cats require more training sessions before they are ready for data collection.

During my years as a Research Scientist I have conducted conscious animal studies on rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, cats and NHP. All have their own unique challenges and methods. However, with all species, there is a designated time period in which the animal needs to acclimate to transport, handing, restraint and the data collection procedures. A guinea pig or rabbit may just take a couple of days, where a cat or NHP can take years before quality data is obtained, depending on the data collection methods. Developing trust and cooperation require patience, time, and understanding of the specie’s behaviors. Before any animal is taken to the next step in the training and acclimation process, the animal should accept the previous step with minimal stress. This is truly a step-by-step process.

While preparing animals for conscious experiments may take additional time, it also helps eliminate certain factors that can possibly interfere with data results. The Research Scientist is able to gather data that may otherwise be compromised by sedatives, anesthesia or undue stress. Those who go through the process of acclimating and training their research animals to conscious study procedures may find that they are able to reduce stress in the animals while creating a more pleasant experience for all involved.

AuthorCaroline Thompson