Microorganisms (or microbes) are organisms that can not be seen with the naked eye, and are frequently single-celled. They are the most numerous, most diverse and most important organisms on earth. Species of bacteria have been found that can live at temperatures above the boiling point and below the freezing point. As a group, microbes can metabolize almost any compound. The can be friend or foe: microbes are essential to the biogeochemical cycling of elements on our earth, and yet a single microorganism can kill a human. The mechanisms by which microbes perform all these and many other unique functions are biologically interesting, and their impact on our world is unsurpassed by any other group of organisms.
The overall goals of this course include the following:
- To introduce students to the unique aspects of biology of microbes. In one semester we cannot even begin to scratch the surface of the entire field of Microbiology. Thus, we choose representative topics on which to focus our attentions as we explore a wide range of questions related to microbiology. These include: Who are the microbes and how are they classified? How do microbes grow? How can we control microbial growth? How can we harness the power of microbial genetics? How do microbes help in food production? What roles do microbes play in the biosphere? How do microbes and the human body interact? Additionally, you will have the opportunity to explore topics that you are interested thought a variety of open ended course assignments.
- To explore the role microbes play in our world. The contributions of microbes to the world, both positive and negative, will be highlighted through out the course.
- To help students understand the process of scientific endeavor. Science is a process which seeks to construct a non-arbitrary, truthful representation of the world. The process of science may take many forms. We will use microbiology as a paradigm to explore the nature of science, what scientists do, and how science impacts our society.
- To convince you that, in their unique way, microbes rule the earth!