Moselio Schaechter

  • The purpose of this blog is to share my appreciation for the width and depth of the microbial activities on this planet. I will emphasize the unusual and the unexpected phenomena for which I have a special fascination... (more)

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February 25, 2010

The Next Generation (Or Two)

by Elio



Student blogs there are that gladden an old man’s heart. Here’s a sampling.

In Catalogue of Organisms, Christopher Taylor, a student of arachnids in Perth, Australia, posted a new interpretation of the mysterious Prototaxites—giant, 8 meter tall fossils some 400 million years old that predate any plants of that size. It was thought that these megastructures were fungi (see our post on this). It has now been proposed that they are sheets of liverworts that rolled up as they cascaded down slopes. Christopher points out things that may be wrong with this scheme.

In Skeptic Wonder, Psi Wavefunction, an undergraduate in British Columbia, takes on the term “Oncogene” and explains why it should disappear forever. Her writing is so lively that we published a guest post by her recently.

In Micro Writers (“written by students to students”) that comes to us from Cairo University, Mariam points to the wisdom of escaping from anthropocentric to biocentric microbiology. This post is based on a commentary by Ramy Aziz published in Gut Pathogens that was highlighted on our blog not long ago.

In Extreme Biology, students post about "anything biology-related." These students have not yet graduated from high school! To our delight and awe, Amy Ciardiello, a 9th grade violinist, writes about "violin-making and fungi"—a topic we had previously posted (here and here) on STC. She accompanies her post with a superb performance of the 1st movement of Haydn's Concerto No. 2 in G Major. Go there and feast both your mind and your ears.

We welcome notices of other microbiological research blogs presented by students.


Dear Dr. Schaechter,
I can't thank you enough for including our humble blog in your post among those great blogs, and for referring to my humble post about an article that is definitely bigger than me.

Wow, thanks for that comment Mark! I am an amateur - learning each day and trying to teach those in my social circle (and a few blog readers) how microbes could be interacting with them in the world - but this issue of E.Coli and the amount of research always linking back to it had really been bothering me lately. I'm glad it's not just me who thinks we should be looking at even more diverse possibilities, instead of sticking with a few microbial lessons learned.

Student, perhaps not (although who isn't, really?), the yet vigorously youthful Jennifer Frazer over at frequently brightens my microbiological week.

This is so lovely to see, Elio and Merry.

First, the only way that anyone learns a subject well is to teach it. And these blog entries are exactly that: teaching fascinating ideas using innovative methods like social interaction networks.

One problem that vexes me no end in teaching microbiology is what I call "creeping colicentricity"---that all organisms use the strategies of E. coli. Sure, it ignores ecophysiology and protean nature (genetically, structurally, and biochemically) of the microbial world...but few students see the depth and breadth of microbiology outside of that major.

So this kind of "peer instruction" is vital. Heck, I learn from them too!

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  • We welcome readers to answer queries and comment on our musings. To leave a comment or view others, remarks, click the "Comments" link in red following each blog post. We also occasionally publish guest blog posts from microbiologists, students, and others with a relevant story to share. If you are interested in authoring an article, please email us at elios179 at gmail dot com.

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