July 23, 2014

About the Course

The course is designed primarily for scientists with a substantial background in microbiology who want to isolate, cultivate, and initiate research programs with a diverse range of microbes. It emphasizes that the great strength of microbiology lies in the diversity of microbial types that can be exploited for basic research. The course will emphasize nature as the source of microorganisms for research; thus, the beginner and the advanced student have equal chances to make discoveries. The course is also open to biochemists, biophysicists, environmental engineers, oceanographers, geneticists, geologists, and limnologists who have a strong interest in microbes and their activities. Students will isolate and cultivate characteristic microbial types from various marine, fresh water, animal, and plant habitats and initiate individual research projects with selected isolates. See an article published in the Septemer 2008 issue of “Microbe” (American Society for Microbiology) by Ralph Wolfe, former course director, talking about the Microbial Diversity Course.

Emphasis will be on the isolation and cultivation of organisms that are distinguished by their physiological, biochemical, and morphological properties. Techniques for cultivation of strict anaerobes will be particularly emphasized. Examples of microbial types that will be isolated are methanogens, acetogens, sulfate-reducing anaerobes, fermentative anaerobes and phototrophs, as well as bacteria involved in the geochemical cycling of various metals. Magnetic bacteria, sulfur-oxidizing bacteria, spirochetes and luminescent bacteria will also be studied. A laboratory component on molecular approaches to microbial diversity will instruct students to use approaches of molecular phylogeny and comparative genomics. This will involve isolation and amplification of 16S rRNA genes as phylogenetic markers and the use of several bioinformatic techniques to analyze nucleic acid sequences.

Directors: Jared Leadbetter (California Institute of Technology) and Dianne Newman (California Institute of Technology)

Comments from Course Participants

“Being exposed to such an incredible line-up of top scientists and the close contact with them opened my eyes and taught me that I still have TONS to learn!”

“Overall impact – ‘Widening my perspectives for future research by combining my field of research with the new tools; by giving the acces to a new world of contacts and potential collaboration.’”

“Overall, awesome!”

“I didn’t realize how easy it was to isolate so many different organisms! This was the collest thing to me. I’m going home to dissect my system and see who’s there!”

“This course will certainly change the direction of my thesis and showed me some neat, new aspects of microbiology. I’m sure I’ll continue to realize all that I’ve learned for years.”

“The course opened my mind and broadened my horizons.”

“Immediately, I think the course has given a lot of new ideas and directions for my thesis work. It will also certainly help in post-doc and beyond!”

“The level of computer tech and microscopy/imaging tech was amazing. It was so fun to have all of the resources available. I found the mini-symosia to be the most valuable part of the experience. It was great to hear speakers together on one topic at a time.”

“This course has opened up the world of microbiology research to me. It is likely to be the foundation for a future career change and development.”