Thursday, January 28, 2016

Microbiology, Cartoons, and Take Home Lessons!

Yes, things are too busy as usual, with classes, grading, adolescent children, elderly family members, and slowly swimming upstreak. But over the break, I learned some interesting things to share with readers (I can't really tell if people read these posts, but thank you if you are doing so!). I hope that everyone had a good break, and have settled into the New Reality of 2016.

I have been clear on this blog that I appreciate different pedagogical approaches, and have observed that students learn in different ways---often relating best to their own skills or interests.  Recently, I have been exploring how artistic approaches by students can improve learning.

As part of the final exam in my Fall semester Microbiology course last semester, I asked my intrepid micronauts in Biology 350 the following question:

Please draw a cartoon related to course material or microbiological interests you have developed during this semester.

I was pleased with and amazed by the results.  May I share them with you?

Mariko is clearly wearing the "microbe-colored glasses" I have tried to impart to my students.  A new perspective!

Kailee was intrigued not only by EPEC, but by the Tir-Intimin system:  Type III secretion systems introducing a bacterial-specific receptor into the afflicted eukaryotic cell target!

Madison shares my fascination by the "Ron Swanson" character from the much missed television series "Parks and Recreation." Here Ron Swanson refuses to call Streptococcus by its true name, in order to establish and maintain dominance.  It's the Swanson Way.

Macaulie pleased me by internalizing one of the central lessons of my class:  avoiding "centric" thinking.  One of the "Deadly Centrisms" remains "colicentricity" where even fine microbiologists think all bacterial are just like E. coli.

I didn't have as much time as I would like to cover innate and adaptive immunity in my course, but Emma clearly was taken by the concept of cytokine storms as a pathogenic strategy.

Cheyenne had clearly thought deeply about the idea of "fingerprinting" people via the microbes on their skin.  I really like to closeup of the fingerprint!

As I mentioned above, my time was limited where innate and adaptive immunity were involved in my class.  But Reilly was fascinated by the way that M cells internalized, processed, and presented antigens to the rest of the immune system!

I have been a long term fanatic about symbiotic interactions.  Ruth shared my interest by depicting the fabulous relationship between Euprymna scolopes and Vibrio fischeri----and the quorum sensing necessary to create light!

Taylor has clearly paid close attention to my many Microbial Sermons.  She knows what you and I know:  it's a microbial world, and we just live in it.

Olivia was the official class "punster."  One of our lab exercises demonstrated natural transformation of antibiotic resistance genes in Acinetobacter.  Many students don't appreciate the prevalence and promiscuity of horizontal gene transfer in the microbial world. A delightfully bad pun was vintage Olivia.

Hailey was highly resistant (!) to my MicroTwitter assignment.  So I am not surprised that some Twitter H8r-ade made it into this assignment in an amusing way.

Emily shares my love of "low" humor and bad jokes.  So her depiction of microbial competition and niche exclusion is unsurprising, amusing, and illustrates a central point of microbial ecology well.

Olivia ("The Other Olivia" or "Olivia #2") has quite the creative mind.  Notice the diverse types of information from my course that appears in this illustration of "Enteric High School" (I can't wait for the musical)!

I see horizontal gene transfer, type III secretory systems, (-) strand RNA virus issues, square halophilic bacteria, the Entner-Dourdoroff pathway, and bacteriophages.  Microbial High School forever!

As an educator and High Priest of the One Microbial Truth (that is, there is only one microbiology course at my institution), I'm often worried what my students "take home" from my class.  It is clear that some of the ideas and concepts I presented now live deep within the brains of my successful micronauts from Fall 2015.  

What do your students remember from classes?  What makes them both smile, and recall important concepts?

Again, Happy 2016!

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