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Biology - BY 101: Microbiology and Cellular Biophysics

Blocks 1 and 2: Kristine Lang and Phoebe Lostroh BY101

This course fulfills the Critical Perspectives: Scientific Investigation of the Natural World (Lab) requirement.

This course introduces students to the study of microbial life from five standpoints:  biophysics, physiology, genetics, molecular biology, and infectious disease.  We will explore these perspectives on microbiology through intensive hands-on laboratory work combined with lectures, discussion, small group work, and individualized library research. 

During Block 1, students will learn the basic vocabulary of microbiology as well as the foundational skills necessary for studying bacteria in the laboratory. Examples of topics covered include the origins of life on Earth, the isolation and cultivation of bacteria, the structure of bacterial cells, bacterial lifestyles and bacterial genetics. We will also cover topics in biophysics including the physics of microscopy, electrostatics of biological membranes, statistical models of cellular dynamics, dynamics of molecular motors, entropy and biological systems, and the interaction of light and biological systems. 

During Block 2, students will use the foundations gained in Block 1 to work on an original research project in collaboration with the course professors.  Prof. Lang is a physics professor with expertise in microscopy and Prof. Lostroh is a biology professor with expertise in microbiology.  Using their combined expertise, they collaborate on a research project to image the shape and surface features of native and mutant bacteria in order to study cellular cytoskeletons and bacterial competence.  The research project focuses on observing and characterizing these features using atomic force microscopy (AFM). 

BY101Students in this course will prepare bacterial samples and then image them with an atomic force microscope (AFM) as part of this ongoing research project.  The upper figure shows a typical 30 micrometer square AFM picture of the Acinetobacter baylii cells under study in this project, while the lower figure shows a zoomed in 8 micrometer square area in 3D relief.  Students in the course will participate in all aspects of the research including planning their experiments, keeping a rigorous lab notebook, preparing the samples, taking data on them, analyzing the data and presenting their results in journal style paper.  So in addition to teaching the biological and microscopy methods, the course will serve as an introduction to the processes of scientific research.  Exemplary students may have the opportunity to continue working on this research during subsequent summers or school years.

This FYE is combination biology and physics course that fulfills one of the pre-requisites for upper-level biology courses. This course is most appropriate for students with preparation in high school biology along with a high school course in chemistry and three years of high school math.  No physics prerequisites are required; however, a willingness to engage with material using physics and mathematical models is required.

A two-block course team-taught by two instructors; one grade will be given for the course as a whole.

Details:

  • While it cannot substitute as an introductory majors’ Biology course, it can count as an elective in a Biology major and is intended to encourage students consider a Biology major.
  • Both blocks, taken together, count as one upper division biology elective
  • In block 1 there will be afternoon labs on multiple days of the week.  In Block 2 there will be assigned lab times from 9 AM to 9 PM in order to accommodate the research project.  Although students will not be in lab during this entire time, they must be available for assigned lab times during this period.
  • This course is most appropriate for students with two years of high school biology along with a high school course in chemistry and three years of high school math.  No physics prerequisites are required; however, a willingness to engage with material using physics and mathematical models is required.