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Teaching Microbiology

Microbiology education blog for undergraduate and graduate faculty

The most-downloaded Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education (JMBE) articles of 2016 cover flipped classrooms, serious games, biosafety guidelines, research on student learning, and more.
Thursday, 08 December 2016 09:02

Supporting Microbiology in the Nursing Curriculum

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Do you teach microbiology to nursing students? Has your institution faced pressure to reduce or eliminate microbiology in its nursing curriculum? ASM is aware of this issue and is taking several steps to address it. 
Monday, 05 December 2016 14:41

Basing a curriculum on discovery-based research

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If you are currently a microbiologist, chances are your introductory microbiology lab course syllabus hadn’t changed for decades. The course likely culminated in each student receiving an unknown bacterial sample, the identity of which was uncovered by applying techniques learned during the semester. Deducing unknowns may require students to apply their critical thinking skills, but it fails to engage students in the discovery process that is one of the foundations of scientific practice. The Small World Initiative (SWI) aims to change student engagement with science by incorporating discovery-based research into the laboratory classroom. 
As World AIDS Day approaches, consider the following resources from ASM’s open-access Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education (JMBE) to help your students understand the mechanisms behind the spread of disease and how the human immune system works. 
Students are the focus of the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) meeting, held most recently November 9-12, 2016, in Tampa, Florida. Undergraduate and postbaccalaureate students make up over half the roughly 4,000 program participants, and many participants belong to minority populations often underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. What is the student experience like at ABRCMS? How do they prepare for their research presentations? We spoke with several ABRCMS attendees and alumni to find out.
“Welcome to Tampa, where diverse voices, diverse science at ABRCMS awaits you!” This was the message from Avery August, Ph.D., Professor of Immunology and Chair at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and chairperson of the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) as the conference kicked off on November 9th, 2016. The day after the U.S. election, at a time of uncertainty and deep division, so many were inspired as they looked across the sea of diverse young scientists at the opening dinner and keynote address, ready to step up and address the scientific challenges of today and…
Tuesday, 15 November 2016 08:22

5 Ways to Get Your Students Involved in Citizen Science

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A great way to get started with active learning is to get your students involved in citizen science. Active learning and citizen science go hand in hand—through crowdsourced data gathering, students can discover and make meaningful contributions to the greater body of scientific knowledge.
Are you curious about Backward Design? Have you ever heard of it before? ASM recently spoke to Sue Merkel, Senior Lecturer in Microbiology at Cornell University and chair of the ASM Committee on Undergraduate Education, about Backward Design and how to get started using this course design technique that helps instructors organize their teaching, promote critical thinking, and set clear goals for their students.  
Thursday, 03 November 2016 08:02

10 Tips for Writing Scientific Journal Articles

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Writing a research manuscript can be overwhelming, particularly for early-career researchers. Without published papers, it can be difficult—if not impossible—to obtain funding or a promotion, so writing a paper well is a crucial skill for career development. Below, ASM President-Elect Dr. Peggy Cotter  gives 10 handy tips on writing up your research, focusing on the introduction and discussion sections. Her general approach to composing a scientific paper? “You want to write it in a way that the reader doesn’t notice the writing. The thoughts flow into their head, it makes sense, it's interesting and they want to follow along.”
October is National Biosafety Month, and with the fall semester well underway, this is a great time to evaluate your teaching lab biosafety plans and practices and see whether any changes are warranted.
The fact that students learn more, earn better grades, and are more likely to persist in STEM fields when they are engaged in active learning is well known. The challenge lies in catalyzing widespread adoption of evidence-based teaching methods like active learning.
Tuesday, 11 October 2016 08:17

Infusing More Math into the Biology Classroom

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Undergraduate educators agree that math skills are important for biology students. For success, students need to be able to accurately perform cell counts, serial dilutions, estimations, data analysis, and modeling, among other things. Yet many students who are committed to becoming biologists find the mathematics necessary for completing their undergraduate degree to be a barrier. One solution to this problem is to infuse more math into the biology classroom, rather than keeping those subjects separate. Still, biology faculty don’t always know how best to introduce and scaffold quantitative concepts in their courses in a way that is approachable for their…
Thursday, 06 October 2016 11:22

Bring the Magic of the Microbiome to Your Classroom

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Having students investigate the human microbiome is a great way to engage them in active learning and course-based research. Many students become captivated by learning about the trillions of microbes living on and in their bodies. The American Society for Microbiology has four active learning experiences from our open access Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education to help you bring the magic of the microbiome to your classroom. 
Wednesday, 21 September 2016 10:57

New Technologies Open New Career Opportunities

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From firepits to gas grills to electric ovens to microwaves, there is no doubt that new technologies change old ways of doing things, from the everyday (such as cooking) to the extraordinary (such as microbiology). From PCR to RFLP to PFGE to WGS, microbiology has seen breakthrough technologies change routine protocols. The field is undergoing a major shift due to applications of DNA sequencing technologies, as evidenced by the recognition of hospital-wide epidemics, identification of unculturable viruses, and comprehension of virulent microbial strain evolution. As old techniques are replaced or complemented with new ones, the microbiology of the future won’t…
Monday, 29 August 2016 12:56

How One Educator Brought Improv to the Classroom

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Laura MacDonald knew from an early age that she wanted to be an educator—as a kid, she used to line up her stuffed animals and teach them. But it wasn’t until her first year of graduate school in microbiology that she knew she wanted to focus her career on teaching at the undergraduate level.
As a first-generation graduate student, Angela Avitua gives credit to her mentors for encouraging her to pursue her passions and open her eyes to possibilities she had never thought of, including pursuing graduate school. “I never seriously considered graduate school as an option until I was an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis,” says Angela. “Once I started doing research internships, I realized that graduate school was something that I wanted to do.”  
“You’ve never experienced anything like the bacterial unknowns project”, a veteran colleague said to me after I received my very first professional appointment as a microbiology adjunct professor. Six years later, these words still resonate in my head, and I often find myself reciting them to my students on the first day of the semester while discussing the course project. Mentioning the word “project” on the first day of class is not the most favorable conversation to have with students. However, the bacterial unknowns project may just be the ultimate assessment an instructor can implement in the microbiology laboratory.
The renowned Small Things Considered (STC) blog began as a means to satisfy Dr. Moselio (Elio) Schaechter’s “insatiable itch of writing” over a decade ago. What started as a simple creative outlet has become one of the most popular blogs in the microbial sciences. The reason for STC’s success is not just due to its accessible, diverse content; it also has a lot to do with the blog creator himself. His expertise and experience, coupled with his frank and intriguing tone and voice, are what bring devoted readers back to his blog. His new book,  In the Company of Microbes,…
Writing high-quality questions to measure student learning is often time-consuming. This is particularly true for questions that assess higher-order thinking as described in Bloom’s taxonomy of learning. Thus, the ASM undergraduate education community recognized the need for a set of carefully crafted, peer-reviewed questions to aid their teaching, and faculty came together with ASM volunteers and staff to create the recently published ASM Sample Questions in Microbiology. At the 2016 ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE) in July, ASM Education Board International Education Committee Member Erica Suchman explained the history and purpose of the Sample Questions.
Monday, 01 August 2016 10:59

IMPROVE YOUR MICROBIOLOGY TEACHING

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As part of back to school month, we invite you to view a free sampling of videos from POM sessions focused on the science of learning, engaging undergraduate students in research, and enhancing medical students’ learning using new technology. These videos are just a small fraction of the entire set of POM recordings, which include a diverse array of presentations comprising a dozen sessions. 
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