This spring, Dr. Tom Benoit is teaching BIMS 1101 Unicellular Organisms Lab. It is a standalone lab that accompanies the BIOL 1301 Unicellular Organisms Lecture; required for Biomedical Science majors but elective for everyone else. In its first time taught, the class has become a roaring hit with BIMS students who enjoy the liberty of designing and conducting experiments, recognize the breadth of skills being learned, and appreciate the practical approach to applying knowledge in an experimental setting.
This lab features a “tourist’s view” of the world of one-celled critters. The course for freshmen started with an introduction to bacteria - students building Winogradsky columns and learning aseptic technique and staining procedures. From there, students isolated and observed fungi and moved on to protists. Though many freshman courses show passing interest in one or two of these organisms, it is a rare course that is so completely devoted to their biology. In BIMS 1101, fundamentals of prokaryotes, fungi, and protists – their cell structure and physiology, taxonomy, and classification – all take center stage under one roof.
Students love the research-rich approach and hands-on work, due in no small part to Dr. Benoit. He has divided the class into research teams to conduct experiments, with the prep work of making media and solutions being part of their effort. As with other BIMS courses, skills build upon skills. All that has been learned will be put to the test when research teams undertake their final project – the isolation and selection of the fastest Chlamydomonas cultures they can find. The semester’s main event will be held at the end of April: Chlamy races, with the winning team being crowned Checkered Flag-ella Champions 2009. Stay tuned for updates and the outcome!