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Welcome to BIOC 318, Laboratory Studies in Applied Microbiology
In fall 2016 we significantly revised the content of this course to focus on a single, albeit ambitious, project to characterize the resident flora (primarily bacteria) of a local water source. The changes were very well received and the benefits of the new course design far outweighed the bumps in the road that are inevitable when one makes major changes to an established course design.
Many studies of samples taken from a wide variety of sources have revealed that only 0.01 to 0.1% of all bacterial cells that can be seen in a light microscope are actually "cultivable" in the laboratory.1 This means that for every bacterial species successfully isolated from an environmental sample, as many as 10,000 species remain undetected. Our project seeks to find and characterize some of this "dark matter" of environmental microbiota. Our overall goals are:
Scientists have estimated that up to one trillion microbial species exist on Earth, about 0.001% of which are actually known.2 If the one trillion estimate is accurate, then if 100 Rice students each discover 100 new species every year (obviously not a realistic expectation), it will take 100 million years to discover all of them. Realistically, we'll be very happy if we discover even one new species or strain of bacteria. Achieving our second project goal, especially part 2, will be challenging, and success is not guaranteed. In fact, most scientific experiments result in failure. What we have to keep in mind is that each step that we take, whether or not it succeeds, is a step that we will not have to repeat. Even a failed attempt represents progress.
Why pursue this project? What good will it do anyone to discover new species of bacteria? We have no idea. What we do know is that most of the world's greatest discoveries did not come about through targeted research. They came about when scientists (including quite ordinary people like ourselves) asked questions just for the sake of knowing. We have no idea where the next great idea or discovery will come from.
Objectives and learning outcomes
The main goal of this course, as must be true for any experiential course, is personal development. We want you to build on skills that you've already acquired and learn new ones. Below we summarize our most important learning objectives and outcomes.
Please see the Syllabus for course details, course timetable, and a list of assignments with due dates.
1D'Onofrio, Anthony, Jason M. Crawford, Eric J. Stewart, Kathrin Witt, Ekaterina Gavrish, Slava Epstein, Jon Clardy, and Kim Lewis . "Siderophores from Neighboring Organisms Promote the Growth of Uncultured Bacteria." Chemistry & Biology (2010): 254-64.
2Offord, Catherine. "Earth: Home to 1 Trillion Microbial Species." The Scientist (2016): http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/46016/title/Earth--Home-to-1-Trillion-Microbial-Species/
|Created by David R. Caprette, Teaching Professor, Rice University (firstname.lastname@example.org) 20 Feb 2017 for the course BIOC 318, Laboratory Studies in Microbiology. Please feel free to copy and/or modify these materials for use in your own academic or other nonprofit program. If you don't mind letting me know of such intentions I'll be happy to hear from you.