Microbiology I: Bacteria
This course designed to give students with no prior experience in microbiology a fundamental understanding of central concepts in the field with a focus on bacteria. Microbes are the most abundant life form on the planet. They represent both a potent medical threat as well as our best avenue to solving many of the most pressing challenges including sustainable energy production, bioremediation and production of recombinant pharmaceuticals. A solid understanding of fundamental microbiology is an excellent foundation for future studies in biomedical research, medicine, dentistry, public health, as well as biomedical, environmental, and industrial engineering.
Particular concepts and questions we will focus on include:
Bacterial Physiology and Structure.
Bacteria are simple cells but they have very intricate subcellular architecture. They can also be capable of metabolic tricks that “higher” organisms cannot perform including the ability to utilize a large number of compounds as energy sources. Students will gain a solid basic understanding of bacterial architecture and metabolism.
The Human "Microbiome"
In a person, bacterial cells outnumber human cells by a factor of ten. These bacteria play critical roles in our health but only with recent advances in genome sequencing technology have we been able to explore what these bacteria are doing for us. Several recent studies indicate that our natural bacterial flora play major roles in causing or protecting us from obesity, diabetes, cancer, autoimmunity, allergy, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Bacterial Genetics, Genomics and Evolution.
The first genomes sequenced were from microbes and the study of microbial genomics continues drive fundamental concepts in bioinformatics and genome analysis. Students will gain a basic understanding of how microbial genomes are sequenced, analyzed, and how our knowledge of bacterial genomes has revolutionized our understanding of everything from the impact microbes have on the environment to how they cause disease.
How Bacteria Cause Disease.
The vast majority of bacterial species are harmless. However, the causes of tuberculosis, dysentery, cholera, diphtheria and plague are bacterial. We will explore exactly how these bacteria cause disease and what makes pathogens different from most other bacteria.
The Emergence of Antibiotic Resistance.
The gains medical science has made in controlling infectious disease over the past few decades are rapidly being reversed by the emergence of strains that are resistant to most or all antibiotics. We will cover what an antibiotic is, how they work, and the details of how bacteria evolve resistance.
The study of microbes, including E. coli and its phages, is the founding basis for all of molecular biology. Throughout the course we will introduce the techniques scientists have developed to study microbes and their genes.