ASM Task Force on Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Microbiology Education
The ASM recommended Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Microbiology Education is now available! The guidelines identify six overarching concepts, which provide a framework for 22 key microbiological topics, and two key skills. These concepts and topics were selected to promote deep understanding of core concepts that are deemed to be of lasting importance beyond the classroom. Likewise, students’ development of competency in the selected skills will have enduring and lasting value beyond both the classroom and laboratories.
Susan Merkel and the ASM Task Force on Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Microbiology published a Perspectives article in the May 2012 issue of the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education (JMBE). Entitled “The Development of Curricular Guidelines for Introductory Microbiology that Focus on Understanding,” the article describes the process of building a consensus around the new, concept-based curriculum for Introductory Microbiology courses.
The ASM Task Force is co-chaired by Susan Merkel (Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.) and Jackie Reynolds (Richland College, Dallas, Tex.) and includes task force members Kai "Billy" Hung (Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Ill.), Amy Siegesmund (Pacific Lutheran University, Seattle, Wash.), Ann Smith (University of Maryland, College Park, Md.), and Heidi Smith (Front Range Community College, Fort Collins, Colo.).
The full ASM Recommended Curriculum Guidelines (pdf version) is available below:
The ASM Recommended Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Microbiology is divided into two parts. Part 1 identifies concepts and statements and Part 2 identifies skill areas and competencies for introductory microbiology.
• Cells, organelles (e.g., mitochondria and chloroplasts) and all major metabolic pathways evolved from early prokaryotic cells.
• Mutations and horizontal gene transfer, with the immense variety of microenvironments, have selected for a huge diversity of microorganisms.
• Human impact on the environment influences the evolution of microorganisms (e.g., emerging diseases and the selection of antibiotic resistance).
• The traditional concept of species is not readily applicable to microbes due to asexual reproduction and the frequent occurrence of horizontal gene transfer.
• The evolutionary relatedness of organisms is best reflected in phylogenetic trees.
Cell Structure and Function
• The structure and function of microorganisms have been revealed by the use of microscopy (including bright field, phase contrast, fluorescent, and electron).
• Bacteria have unique cell structures that can be targets for antibiotics, immunity and phage infection.
• Bacteria and Archaea have specialized structures (e.g., flagella, endospores, and pili) that often confer critical capabilities.
• While microscopic eukaryotes (for example, fungi, protozoa and algae) carry out some of the same processes as bacteria, many of the cellular properties are fundamentally different.
• The replication cycles of viruses (lytic and lysogenic) differ among viruses and are determined by their unique structures and genomes.
• Bacteria and Archaea exhibit extensive, and often unique, metabolic diversity (e.g., nitrogen fixation, methane production, anoxygenic photosynthesis).
• The interactions of microorganisms among themselves and with their environment are determined by their metabolic abilities (e.g., quorum sensing, oxygen consumption, nitrogen transformations).
• The survival and growth of any microorganism in a given environment depends on its metabolic characteristics.
• The growth of microorganisms can be controlled by physical, chemical, mechanical, or biological means.
Information Flow and Genetics
• Genetic variations can impact microbial functions (e.g., in biofilm formation, pathogenicity and drug resistance).
• Although the central dogma is universal in all cells, the processes of replication, transcription, and translation differ in Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukaryotes.
• The regulation of gene expression is influenced by external and internal molecular cues and/or signals
• The synthesis of viral genetic material and proteins is dependent on host cells.
• Cell genomes can be manipulated to alter cell function.
• Microorganisms are ubiquitous and live in diverse and dynamic ecosystems.
• Most bacteria in nature live in biofilm communities.
• Microorganisms and their environment interact with and modify each other.
• Microorganisms, cellular and viral, can interact with both human and nonhuman hosts in beneficial, neutral or detrimental ways.
Impact of Microorganisms
• Microbes are essential for life as we know it and the processes that support life (e.g., in biogeochemical cycles and plant and/or animal microflora).
• Microorganisms provide essential models that give us fundamental knowledge about life processes.
• Humans utilize and harness microorganisms and their products.
• Because the true diversity of microbial life is largely unknown, its effects and potential benefits have not been fully explored.
• Ability to apply the process of science
o Demonstrate an ability to formulate hypotheses and design experiments based on the scientific method.
o Analyze and interpret results from a variety of microbiological methods and apply these methods to analogous situations.
• Ability to use quantitative reasoning
o Use mathematical reasoning and graphing skills to solve problems in microbiology.
• Ability to communicate and collaborate with other disciplines
o Effectively communicate fundamental concepts of microbiology in written and oral format.
o Identify credible scientific sources and interpret and evaluate the information therein.
• Ability to understand the relationship between science and society
o Identify and discuss ethical issues in microbiology.
Microbiology Laboratory Skills
• Properly prepare and view specimens for examination using microscopy (bright field and, if possible, phase contrast).
• Use pure culture and selective techniques to enrich for and isolate microorganisms.
• Use appropriate methods to identify microorganisms (media-based, molecular and serological).
• Estimate the number of microorganisms in a sample (using, for example, direct count, viable plate count, and spectrophotometric methods).
• Use appropriate microbiological and molecular lab equipment and methods.
• Practice safe microbiology, using appropriate protective and emergency procedures.
• Document and report on experimental protocols, results and conclusions.