Welcome to the world of Microbiology! Although invisible to the unaided eye, microbes play many important and beneficial roles in nature as well as within the human body. For example, they are critical for processes of decomposition and nutrient cycling, produce natural antimicrobial compounds, and help protect our bodies from dangerous pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms). However, not all microbes are “good guys”-pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites continue to challenge health care providers in numerous ways. The evolution of antibiotic resistance among bacteria, as well as emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, are just two examples of the significant challenges that we are currently facing. In recent years we have become increasingly aware of the critical roles of the human microbiome (all the microbes we carry within and on our bodies) on human health and disease, yet there is still so much that remains unknown. Health care providers need to have a full understanding of the microbial world to properly detect, diagnose, treat and prevent infectious diseases, as well as to know how to protect themselves and others from harm.
We have designed the laboratory exercises in this book around a few major concepts-proper use of aseptic techniques, bacterial staining and microscopy, bacterial metabolism, and control of microbial growth. As you read through each exercise, perform the experiments, and interpret your results, try to always remember the “big picture”—how your knowledge of the microbial world will help you in your future career.
Each laboratory exercise begins with objectives and key terms, and review questions are found at the end of each chapter. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the key terms—they are bolded within the text of each exercise. Review questions will help ensure that you understand the “big picture” as well. In addition, there are appendices that provide supplementary information to help you understand the material found in some of the exercises.
The creation of this manual involved several semesters of testing out new laboratory exercises, modifying experiments and revising write-ups based on feedback from other instructors and students. We welcome additional comments and suggestions as to how we can improve the manual in the future.
Best of luck with your studies—we hope that you will enjoy learning about and exploring the wonderful world of microbes as much as we have. Always remember- you are never alone because your microbes are always with you!
A note to instructors: At Queensborough Community College, Lab 13 (Case studies in Microbiology) is not included in the manual but provided to our students as a handout in the last class—this is done so that the students can answer the questions based on what they observe in the lab rather than on prior preparation. A copy of this exercise, as well as answers to review questions, can be requested by emailing either of the authors.
Please feel free to contact us with questions or comments on the manual.
Dr. Joan Petersen: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Susan McLaughlin: email@example.com
The authors would like to thank the following people who contributed to the preparation of this manual:
- Our College Laboratory Technician, Ms. Laura Rachiele, for her tireless dedication and willingness to try out numerous experiments with us, and for providing the photographs used in the manual
- Our two student readers, Bharti Kumari and Stephanie Solomon, for the great effort they put into reading, evaluating, and providing the student perspective on the exercises
- Our colleague Dr. Monica Trujillo for providing the Streptomyces cultures and for her expertise in helping to develop this exercise
- Mr. Adam Morgenstern & Antonios Tsimounis for providing many of the illustrations
- Our fellow Microbiology instructors at QCC for their helpful comments and suggestions on previous versions of the manual
- QCC’s library for providing funding for us to complete this project and for their helpful guidance about publishing open educational resources
- And finally, to all Microbiology students who have used this manual in its earlier versions for providing us with their comments and suggestions during the revision process