Tag: gram stain
Today the Microbiology students took their lab skills test. I give them two opportunities to show their proficiency in streaking plates, performing aseptic transfers, pipetting, using a spectrophotometer, reading biochemical test results and indentifying bacteria, describing colonies, doing Gram stains, finding and describing cells under the microscope, cleaning up bacterial spills, designing experiments, and writing Materials & Methods. Those who did not perform up to expectations will have another chance in about a week. After all, my goal is not to see what they’ve learned by Thanksgiving – it is to insure they have the skills mastered by the time the course is completed. What is more important than when.
None of these skills were taught independently in this course. All were learned as students did research projects, using a “just-in-time” approach to teaching. Aseptic technique was taught when we needed to inoculate tubes and plates for purification and identification. Smears and staining were taught when we needed to determine which biochemical tests to inoculate and rapid ID panels to use. Spectroscopy and dilution methods and pipetting were taught when we needed to conduct pour plate counts to follow survival of cells following exposure to radiation. In every instance, there was a reason and connectedness between what we were doing and a clear goal we were trying to achieve. Techniques were not islands unto themselves but instead means used to discover the truth at the end of the journey.
We believe students learn better, retain better, and are more engaged in their work when this approach is taken. That is why the BIMS program is skills driven, research-rich, and product-oriented.
Hmmm… Maybe you CAN pick your friend’s nose after all.
Our Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus study is underway, and the response has been all we hoped for! In three days we surpassed our goal of 100 samples taken from 100 students from every corner of campus. Next step? We’ll do Gram stains, catalase test, coagulase test, and confirm results using BD-Crystal Rapid ID panels to confirm Staphylococcus aureus. That will end our lab work on THIS project for the semester, but then comes the more laborious part of the project – inputting data from the surveys and lab tests, doing the statistical analysis, etc. Students this semester will end their contributions to the project by putting together their research posters in which they’ll focus in on one aspect of the study.
In the spring we’ll continue the project in two ways. First, I’ll repeat the work with McMurry faculty and staff. Second, we’ll hand over any presumed MRSA strains to students in another course who will do the DNA sequencing necessary to confirm the presence of the mecA gene – the “gold standard” in MRSA confirmation. How ironic that the project starts with swabbing the nose and ends with a “gold standard”.
We also have a student whose Honors project involves surveying environmental surfaces for MRSA, so we’ll have a full profile of MRSA on campus.
This has been a very fun and popular project that has taught my students lots of basic microbiology through involvement in an interesting and relevant research project. I could have taught it in the conventional way – but how much fun would that have been? The McMurry BIMS approach to teaching is the only way to go!
By the way, reporters don’t come out to talk with you when you teach your labs in conventional ways. So why not promote your program as you teach by doing interesting projects with your students? For more info on this project, become a fan of the BIMS Facebook page and see some of the press we received!