Instructors: Alain Viel and members of the Department
Half course (fall term; repeated spring term). Fall: Tu., 1-3; Spring: F., 2-4 (with 1 or more sections led by MSI-associated faculty and postdocs)
EXAM GROUP: Fall: 15, 16; Spring: 7, 8
Enrollment: Limited to 30.
A laboratory course that immerses students in a dynamic project-based research environment. Participate in experimental projects directly linked with ongoing faculty research. Students select a project from the following research tracks: neurobiology, microbial sciences, cell biology, and synthetic biology. New projects, including some in other research fields, are offered every term. In a highly collaborative atmosphere, students form a fully-functional research group based on the sharing of ideas and progress reports between projects.
Prerequisite: Life and Physical Sciences A or Life Sciences 1a or permission of the instructor. Students interested in a neurobiology project will need MCB 80 or permission of the instructor.
Two microbial projects lead by members of the Kolter Lab and Church Lab were added to the impressive selection of projects already available in this unique laboratory course which immerses students in a dynamic project-based research environment. (Lead Instructor Prof. Alain Viel)
Associated Faculty: Prof. Roberto Kolter (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, HMS)
Project Leader: Dr. Ashlee Earl (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, HMS)
Biogeography is classically defined as the geographic distribution of plants and animals in our biosphere, but how does this apply to the microbial world? Is "everything everywhere and nature selects", or are there significant physical barriers to global microbial migration? Bacillus subtilis is arguably one of the best-known and most extensively studied gram-positive bacteria. While a great deal is known about B. subtilis at the molecular level, relatively little is known about its ecology and evolution. To gain a better understanding of B. subtilis, as a species, we will begin to assess the genotypic and phenotypic distribution of this soil microorganism by sampling environments at different spatial scales, far (different continents) and near (sub-millimeter), using a number of molecular techniques.
Look for any niche on earth that can support life, and you will find microbes. Their diversity in shape, size, abundance, and activity is staggering, and they impact nearly every aspect of life on the planet, as well as much of the inanimate world. Adaptive evolution is a particularly powerful, yet elegantly simple, technique to study the effects of both natural biological processes and human-imposed changes on microbes. In our project, we will challenge a set of microbes with harsh conditions relevant to human disease (antibiotic resistance) and biofuel production (increasing environmental acidity). We will assay their ability to adaptively evolve in these conditions, and explore the specific genetic changes that effect phenotypic improvements. The microbes under investigation include B. subtilis, Escherichia coli (a gram negative bacterium from the human gut) and a candidate fermentation organism for commercial bioethanol production.