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Team project proposal guidelines

Microbiologists have predicted that as many as 1 trillion microbial species live on this planet.1 Most of these species are as yet undiscovered, in large part because we do not know how to grow or identify them in the laboratory.

In addition to contributing to our ongoing project by employing methodologies currently at our disposal, you are asked to come up with one or more suggestions for how we might collect and characterize species that we currently cannot culture in our laboratory. You might simply recommend a change in culture media or culture conditions, adapt an existing technique such as those described in the article "Becoming Acculturated,"2 or you might even come up with a new technique for cultivating "uncultivable" species. One important stipulation is that you must be prepared to provide a convincing rationale to support your approach to the problem.

Starting with your individual suggestions, you and your teammates are to put together a team proposal for a single strategy that we might develop and employ in our laboratory. Please prepare your final team proposal, which will be due the last day of classes, according to the following guidelines.

Title and authors. The title should reflect your approach to the problem. For example, our current approach might be titled "Using spread plates to isolate bacteria from environmental samples."

Objectives and rationale. Incorporate your team's approach to our common goal into your statement of objectives. E. g., "We plan to grow previously uncultivable bacteria by..." Provide the reasoning behind your approach to the problem. How will your methodology help us isolate and culture bacteria that we cannot currently cultivate and characterize? If you are targeting a particular taxonomic group, why do you think we will find these bacteria in our samples and why do you think your strategy will improve our chances of obtaining them?

Protocol. Here is where you describe your methodology in detail. If you can devise a protocol that we could adapt for use in our laboratory (at a modest cost), all the better.

Materials needed. Include specialized media and other supplies if applicable. There is no need to include common lab equipment such as pipets, disposable petri dishes, etc.

The process. Give careful thought to this part as you develop your project. Describe each suggestion that each team member brought to the table whether or not you used it for the final proposal. Describe the process that led you to the final project, including ideas that you rejected, and why. If you start early enough you might even have a chance to do some testing in the lab to see if your proposal is practical. Document any such supporting work.

References. Cite any literature that you consulted as you developed your proposal.

1Locey, K.J. et al. "Scaling laws predict global microbial diversity." PNAS 103(21): 5970-5975, 2016.

2Perkel, J.M. "Becoming Acculturated - Techniques for deep dives into the microbial dark matter." The Scientist (May 1, 2016):

Created by David R. Caprette, Teaching Professor, Rice University ( 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.
Last updated 20 Feb 2017