Microbiology

Level: Advanced level
Course code: 1BG307
Credits: 15 c
More info: Course syllabus
Student portal: Schedule and course material

Microorganisms still are common model organisms for molecular geneticists, and common producers in food industry and biotechnological industry. They shape and change our environment, and infectious diseases are on their way back as one of the scourges of mankind, because many bacteria and parasites nowadays are resistant to the antibiotics we use to fight them. In the microbiology course you will learn about microorganisms, how they work and how they interact with their environment, including us. The course will give you a good foundation for understanding and using microorganisms in all branches of biology they affect, and also the practical know-how you need to handle them.

The course focuses on microorganisms in their natural surroundings, including their interaction with other organisms and the environment, with the following main themes:

Microbial diversity and evolution: What microorganisms are there, how do we know what groups of microorganisms there are, and what governs their evolution?

Microbial cell biology and developmental biology: Bacteria are (almost always) unicellular and have (almost) no internal membrane- surrounded compartments. How have they solved the problem with communication and equal distribution of the cellular contents to the daughter cells at division?

Metabolism and physiology: Bacterial metabolism is as variable as morphology of plants and animals, and of fundamental importance for biogeochemical cycles. We go through the principles of energy yield and biosynthesis, how environmental changes affect bacteria and how they adapt to these changes.

Cooperation, attack and defence: Microorganisms in nature live in ”societies” where they interact in different ways. Among other things this means much more efficient degradation of organic compounds and energy yield, and better survival. How do they communicate with each other, and how do they affect life processes in each other? Applications: Infectious disease, food microbiology, bioremediation and biotechnological production.

Of course it is not enough to listen to lectures and read books to become a good microbiologist. You must also practise skills in problem solving and learn to handle the organisms in the laboratory. So, naturally the course contains also such components. Our seminars usually start out with some recently published investigation, so that we can discuss both methodology and obtained data. The laboratory course, in addition to ”cook-book exercises, includes a larger independent project where you isolate an organism of your choice from natural sources and determine its species using morphological and metabolic as well as molecular methods (PCR and sequencing). After this, you will be able to compose growth media and get your organisms to grow in pure culture, as well as identify them. We also make site visits to e-g- the sewage treatment plant of the City of Uppsala, the bacteriological laboratory at the Academic Hospital, and the microbiological department of some biotechnological company to see microbiology in use in society

The theoretical as well as the practical content will prepare you for in-depth studies in the subject, as well as for professional work in e.g. biotechnological production, food handling, and combating infectious disease. To take the microbiology course you need to have taken basic courses in biology and chemistry, including basal molecular genetics.

For more information, please contact:
Staffan Svärd (Staffan.Svard@icm.uu.se)