Tag: Winogradsky column
In BIMS 1101 Unicellular Organisms Lab, Dr. Benoit takes students through an amazing tour of the unseen world, one filled with bacteria and protozoa and algae and yeast. The course teaches basic cell biology and the diversity that exists among the smallest forms of life. As a way of demonstrating the metabolic diversity of bacteria, all students create Winogradsky columns by filling Falcon flasks with diatomaceous earth, a variety of chemicals, and some water drawn from pond sludge (see photo). These are the students’ pets, cared for and tended to by the students. Dr. B encourages students to drop by the lab regularly to visit their pets and to enjoy their journey to maturation. At the end of the semester, students are free to take them home where they can continue to mature and change for many years.
The preparation begins white usually, but chemical changes caused by a variety of bacterial turn the many minerals present into a technicolor show. A good balance of chemicals and diversity of bacteria can result in reds and greens and blacks and yellows and purples as one species of bacteria after another transforms the minerals into colorful compounds. It is the microbial equivalent of a garden filled with diverse plants.
As educational as the Winogradsky column is, the fun take on the project by Dr. Benoit demonstrates an important component of science at McMurry – if it isn’t fun, something is wrong!
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!