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Course overview

Labs: JH022 - Tuesdays and Thursdays 1PM-5PM

The labs for M465 are designed to familiarize you with how research investigation in environmental microbiology is designed, performed, analyzed, and communicated. Over the course of the semester, you will explore the diversity and function of environmental microbes and form hypotheses as to their impact in their community. Your job will be to think like microbiologists when designing and executing experiments to identify and characterize microbes from three distinct environments. Your instructor – indeed no one – will know ahead of time what you will find in the sample you will collect; therefore, the successful outcome of the project is in your hands. You will learn to work as a scientist, to perform the experiments properly, keep good records of your results, and to articulate the findings and conclusions from your work, both orally and in written reports. These are ambitious goals for any laboratory course. Since this course has few prerequisites, we expect that some of you will come into the course with extensive experience in microbiology and research investigation, while others have had little related experience or course work. Our goal is for everyone to end the course equally comfortable and facile with the tools and techniques of investigative environmental microbiology.

Student Directives

Please familiarize yourself in advance with the exercise(s) to be performed. Before coming to lab each week, read the exercise on openwetware and any accompanying technical material carefully. Using your composition book, create a flow chart of any experimental procedures to be performed, leaving sufficient blank space for rethinking or reworking. These flow charts will be checked before the start of lab to make sure you have them done as they are worth 10% of your total grade.

Your instructor will give a short lecture and/or preliminary instructions and demonstrations at the beginning of each lab. Do not attempt to start work before receiving instructions. Please make sure that you understand the purpose and execution of each part of the investigation and ask any clarifying questions before getting to work.


Please check the calendar for due dates. Make sure you understand the policy on late assignments and makeups.

(1) Lab notebook (10% total grade): Your lab composition book will be used during each meeting to record your laboratory work. These entries will keep track of the date, the objectives of that day, the reagents and equipment used, and any results. Target audience: future you and your instructors.

(2) Proposal (20%): At the end of “thinking time” you will generate a proposal for your project to be submitted to your instructor. This draft will be perfected with the help of your instructor and group and a final proposal will be submitted. Target audience: your peers.

(3) Presentation of the proposal (5%): You will present a short (10 min) presentation on your proposed project. Target audience: your peers.

(4) Results summaries (20%): At the end of each of three distinct laboratory analyses you will write up short (one page) results summaries to submit to your instructors. Although you may have worked in a group to generate these experiments, these results summaries should be your own work – not collaborative. For example, do not use a graph generated by your group member.

(5) Connecting your science to the general public (5%): We will be reading a general science book, written for the lay public, about the microbiome. During the latter ½ of the course, at the end of each wee, you will summarize a chapter online. These short form summaries will be read by and reviewed by your peers. Target audience: your peers.

(6) Final papers (30%): At the end of the semester you will write a research paper on your proposed project. You will submit a draft of this paper and feedback will be provided before the final is due. Target audience: your instructors.

(7) Participation/Attendance (10%): Includes short assignments (such as the dilution series assignment) as well as coming in to the laboratory prepared and ready to work.

Policy on Late Assignments and Lab Make-ups

Make up of laboratory work in another lab section is not possible, given the nature of lab work. All late assignments, whether or not excused, must be submitted within a week. All late work is subject to a penalty of 5% per day late and is not accepted for point credit after one week. Attendance is mandatory and your submission of worksheets, each meeting, will count towards your final grade.

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