What should students know?

K N and P J Harris ecoli at cix.compulink.co.uk
Wed Mar 20 15:01:37 EST 1996

> ==========
> bionet/microbiology #2322, from richardz at cy-net.net, 3054 chars, 15 
Mar 1996 15:34:21 
> Comment to 2321.
> ----------
> Article: 3272 of bionet.microbiology
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> From: richardz at cy-net.net (richard)
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> Subject: Re: What should students know?
> Date: 15 Mar 1996 15:34:21 GMT
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> In article <8303138839101 at microbiol.org>, sysop at microbiol.org says:
> >
> >
> >You are absolutely right - that is why it is so difficult to 
> >new job candidates.  
> >Scott Sutton
> >sutton at microbiol.org
> >The Microbiology BBS
> >http://www.microbiol.org/microbbs
> >(USA) 817-557-0330 (N/8/1)
> >
> >==================
> >
> Some of this discussion might properly be cross posted to 
> There is in my view a serious big time problem with much of 
> 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 
> microbial physiology to folks with no background in either micro or 
> And the prof himself clearly  had no knowledge of basic micro. A year 
> that prof was replaced by an excellent undergraduate teacher. Someone
> who really knew the subject and cared about the students, but the 
> 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 
> 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 
> But basics are basics, and I suspect that far too  many courses have
> lecture and lab material on gene splicing and too little on 
> 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 
> an identity crisis (as seen in the fact that ASM now published 9 
> 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 
Something of an aside as I have already contributed to this thread.
I teach in UK and we have students from continental Europe coming in in 
increasing numbers. One of my current students from France showed me her 
 Sixth Form (high school) Biology text and I was fascinated to see how 
much genuine serious microbiology this contained. The shadow of Pasteur 
is still being cast there obviously.
Peter Harris, Reading, UK.

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