What should students know?

richard richardz at cy-net.net
Fri Mar 15 10:34:21 EST 1996

In article <8303138839101 at microbiol.org>, sysop at microbiol.org says:
>You are absolutely right - that is why it is so difficult to interview
>new job candidates.  
>Scott Sutton
>sutton at microbiol.org
>The Microbiology BBS
>(USA) 817-557-0330 (N/8/1)
Some of this discussion might properly be cross posted to sci.research.careers

There is in my view a serious big time problem with much of undergraduate
and even graduate education in microbiology-bacteriology.
First, few schools really hire qualified faculty to teach these.
They hire biochemists and gene jocks with some knowledge
of micro.  This is done primarily because they are looking for
folks who will bring in the grant bucks in the sexy areas.

Rarely have these people taken a rigorous course in 
either medical-diagnostic bact., industrial micro., of food micro.

A bit more than a decade ago I watched my helper struggle with
an "INTRODUCTORY" course in micro.  It was clear that the prof had no
idea what belonged in there.  The person was attempting to teach "advanced"
microbial physiology to folks with no background in either micro or biochem.
And the prof himself clearly  had no knowledge of basic micro. A year later
that prof was replaced by an excellent undergraduate teacher. Someone
who really knew the subject and cared about the students, but the person
was never allowed on a tenure track and eventually had to leave.

In too many schools micro. is the step child of a biology department or 
a professional school. Or worse, it is handled in several differnt
departments and curricula,  often with an emphasis that is
not very appropriate for the beginning student.

Since I don't teach, I am not familiar with the current crop of textbooks.
But basics are basics, and I suspect that far too  many courses have
lecture and lab material on gene splicing and too little on microscopy,
staining, cultivation, asepsis, taxonomy and nomenclature, microbes
of medical, veterinary and industrial importance, and on and on.

Micro or more properly Bacteriology, is in my view in a crisis. There is
an identity crisis (as seen in the fact that ASM now published 9 specialty
journals, one of which has nothing at all to do with bacteriology) and 
and several of which are  of interest only to clincial laboratarians
and infectious disease specialists.

I've no real answers unfortunately, but I know the apple is worm eaten.

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