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BIOL 238 Microbiology
BIOL 239 Experimental Microbiology


Prof. Joan Slonczewski

Pathogenic Escherichia coli attached to human cells in tissue culture.  Donnenberg lab, U. Maryland at Baltimore.

MicroWiki Projects by Kenyon students

Microbes are ubiquitous; your own body contains ten times as many microbial cells as human cells. Many species inhabit environments which humans consider "extreme," such as superheated sulfuric acid in deep-sea thermal vents, or alkaline salt-saturated soda lakes.
  • Microbes make history.  From wine and cheese, through tuberculosis and AIDS, our microbial companions have shaped human destiny.  Who first saw single microbes?  Who learned to grow them in culture?  How have the classic Koch's postulates been adapted to molecular pathology?
  • Genetic  regulation.  In natural environments, microbes survive extreme changes in their environment.  We study current research on genetic  response, and what these mechanisms can tell us about microbes inside the human environment.
  • Extreme environments. How did microbes evolve to live in habitats as diverse as a cow's rumen, or soil two miles down, or (possibly)  the crust of Mars?
  • Microbial machines.  Bacterial structures, such as DNA replication, ATPase, and cell division, are understood at the molecular level.  Can these structures tell us how to build nanomachines?
  • Bacterial biochemistry.  Some bacterial species can "eat" rock; "breathe" uranium; or photosynthesize on beef broth.  Understanding their bizarre chemistry helps us better understand human biochemistry--and improve scores on MCAT or GRE.
  • Microbes in ecosystems.  Bacteria and fungi perform unique and critical functions in our biosphere, particularly in the nitrogen cycle and in decomposition.  Yet less than 0.1% of all bacterial species have yet been identified.
  • Evolution.  The first living organisms to evolve were microbes.  How did the first living cells give rise to bacteria, eukaryotes, and archaea?  Were the first cells built of RNA?  What RNA "fossils" remain within our own cells?
  • Pathology.  How do bacteria coexist with the human host?  How and why do some species cause disease?  We focus on respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamidia and Hepatitis C.
  • Viruses.  How do viruses take over a cell's genetics and physiology?  Every kind of cell can be parasitized by viruses--including microbial cells.
  • Emerging pathogens.  Escherichia coli 0157,  Listeria,  Pfisteria.  Why and how do new diseases appear?  How do epidemics and pandemics shape human population?
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