ASM's Undergrad Micro Curriculum

Ruben Donis rdonis at UNL.EDU
Wed Sep 28 21:36:07 EST 1994


September 28, 1994

Dear colleagues:

In the September issue of ASM News, the official publication of the
American Society of Microbiology, there is an article of interest to all
involved in teaching bacteriology/virology/mycology.

The article,  on p. 460-61, is written by Jean A. Douthwright and is
entitled UNDERGRADUATE MICROBIOLOGY CURRICULUM RECOMMENDATIONS.  This
article is a recapitulation of the transactions of the Undergraduate
Microbiology Education Conference, held in Las Vegas, last May.  I highly
recommend reading it, because it has very good suggestions.  However, there
are some surprising omissions.

For those of you that cannot get a copy of ASM news right away, please find
below a copy of the proposed themes for a introductory microbiology course:


*****BEGIN OF TEXT FROM ASM NEWS, VOL 60, PAGE 461:

PROPOSED THEMES AND CONCEPTS FOR AN INTRODUCTORY
MICROBIOLOGY COURSE

        Darwinian principles of evolution can provide an overarching theme
to the course.  The cellular structures, metabolic pathways, regulatory
signals, and genetic exchange mechanisms exhibited by microorganisms at
present are the products of natural selection.  In addition, evolutionary
processes can be observed in the microbial world today, in cases such as
antibiotic resistance, xenobiotic biodegradation, and the coevolution of
hosts and pathogens.

 I.     Impact of microbes on the biosphere and humans
        A.  Metabolic transformations of chemical elements in the biosphere
        B.  Agents of infectious disease
        C.  Use by humans in industry

 II.    Microbial cell biology
        A.  Information flow within a cell
            1.  Central dogma of molecular biology (DNA_RNA_protein)
            2.  Regulation of cell activities at the levels of gene expression
                and protein activity
        B.  Interrelationship between the form, chemical composition, and
            function of cellular structures
        C.  Growth
            1.  Relation to the amount of nutrient resources that the microbial
                population consumes
            2.  Rate
                a.  Autocatalytic process
                b.  Effect of environmental factors
        D.  Metabolism
            1.  Biochemical unity within the diversity of microbial life
            2.  Limited number of biochemical mechanisms of energy conservation
            3.  Biochemical pathways and the laws of chemistry and physics

III.    Microbial genetics
        A.  Excellent model systems in bacteria for general concepts
            1.  Stable inheritance of genetic traits as a consequence of the
                mechanism of DNA replication.
            2.  Occurrence of spontaneous and induced mutations by specific
                biochemical mechanisms

            3.  Presence or lack of mutational alteration of the organism's
                phenotype
            4.  Selection and identification of specific mutants in the
                             laboratory
            5.  Occasional selective advantage of mutant phenotypes in nature
        B.  Unique characteristics of genetic exchange mechanisms in bacteria
            1.  Vectorial transmission of genetic information between microbes
                (sometimes across species or genus boundaries) by several
                different mechanisms.
            2.  Conference of novel properties by plasmids upon the recipient
                  cell (e.g., antibiotic resistance, catabolic pathways, and
                  virulence)

 IV.    Interactions with other organisms and the environment
        A.  Ecological success and persistence in the environment
            1.  Consequence of competition for nutrients, adherence to a
                surface, or production of virulence factors
            2.  Avoidance of losses
                a.  Biotic loss factors such as animal or plant host
defenses or
                  microbial predators
              b.  Abiotic loss factors-physiological mechanisms of stress
                  survival
        B.  Adaptation to changes in the environment
            1.  Physiological adaptation by individual species in response to
                environmental signals.
            2.  Alteration of diversity of species in a mixed population by
                natural selection of species or genotypes in different habitats
   V.   Microorganisms and the human species
        A.  Infectious diseases-dynamic host-pathogen interactions
            1.  Host defense mechanisms to prevent or eradicate infections
            2.  Pathogen expression of virulence factors to evade defense
                mechanisms
        B.  Industrial microbiology and biotechnology
            1.  Past use of biosynthetic and catabolic abilities of diverse
                microorganisms to produce chemicals, foods, and medicines
            2.  Future use of genetic engineering techniques to synthesize
                products of plant or animal origin in bacteria

*****END OF TEXT FROM ASM NEWS, VOL 60, PAGE 461**********

As a virologist and a member of ASM, I feel that failing to mention the
word VIRUS in a proposed MICROBIOLOGY course outline is unthinkable.
Several colleagues felt the same way, thus this posting.

I thought you might want to respond to the ASM, if you feel that viruses
and phage deserve more attention in udergraduate micro education.  The
issue of ASM News has a FAXBACK sheet for gathering ideas and suggestions.
The number is 202/942-9333.

I hope virologists will respond.



Dr. Ruben Donis
Dept. of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
202 VBS
University of Nebraska,
Lincoln, NE 68583-0905
Phone: 402-472-6063
FAX to 402-472-9690
E-mail RDONIS at UNL.EDU





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