What should students know?

K N and P J Harris ecoli at cix.compulink.co.uk
Wed Mar 13 15:19:34 EST 1996

Apologies in advance.
But I have been the the business of training microbiologists for a long 
Don't ask academics, do what some of the "Learned Societies" are 
starting to do and ask the employers.
Pressure on teaching time and the need to be "with it" are making many 
University Courses a farce. The student is presented (or even worse - 
-having demonstrated to him/her) the latest thing in  ............. 
(fill in the blanks yourself).

(1) They know very little about basic aseptic technique.
(2) They are unaware about the methods of sterilisation of basic 
(3) They have little knowledge of the requirements of different groups 
of organisms.
(4) Their basic chemical knowledge means that they are unaware of such 
facts that i.e. most metal phosphates are insoluble and will cause nasty 

Try this out for size:-

Ask your third year students the following questions:-

(1) What is an autoclave?
(2) How does it work and what precautions are necessary in its use ?
(3) What are the melting points of commonly used laboratory plastics ?
(4) What effects might commonly used buffer solutions have - apart from 
controlling pH?
(5) Is it safe to assume that agar-agar is chemically inert ?
(6) Do the same molar concentrations of Sodium chloride and glucose have 
the same osmotic effect ?

Get the right answers to 4 out of six and you are doing well.

Peter Harris,
Department of Soil Science,
The University of Reading,

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