The field and laboratory are places where problems are approached in real-time and where answers can be discovered, not just learned. Skills gained hands-on complement knowledge learned in the classroom to prepare students to solve problems and innovate. This is lately termed ‘experiential learning,’ and as long as we don’t ruin a great idea by overstructuring things, the future of teaching is going to be way more interactive than it is now. Working in a lab, for starters, students have the chance to design, implement and share projects in an interdisciplinary group and among the resource-rich scientific community at the University of Minnesota. Interested in working in the lab or on an undergraduate research opportunity program (UROP) project? Contact me.
BBE 4302/5302 (3 Cr) – Biodegradation of Bioproducts
This course is offered in Spring and is often called ‘Organisms.’ The class focuses 50% of time on the organisms responsible for lignocellulose degradation. These include bacteria, fungi, insects, and marine borers. We focus primarily on wood as a lignocellulose-based building material and we spend the majority of time on microbial agents of deterioration/degradation. Prevention, detection and control of these organisms is another 25% of the class, with the last 25% devoted to their potential utilization in biotechnology. The philosophy, goals, grading expectations, and general schedule are outlined in the class syllabus. The ‘Organisms’ class will begin incorporating more hands-on training as it matures, and students should be prepared to discuss scientific articles and current events in addition to learning the fundamentals.
BBE 3/5480 (3 Cr) - Special Topics: Applied Mycology
This is a fungus-focused course designed to dig deep into the fundamentals of fungal biology and then to practice harnessing that biology to pitch research proposal ideas. This skill (an ability to pitch ideas for application that are resting on sound footing in the fundamentals) is a key to success in many careers, not just academia. This course is divided into three sections related to fungal biology. Woven within these sections are 6-8 classroom 'Fungi in Focus' modules, focused around a cutting-edge scientific paper and resulting in student-led, student-peer-reviewed Application proposals we call "AppPitches". This is a core exercise in this course, done with repetition, to provide practice pitching ideas and reviewing the proposals of others.
BBE 4608/5608 (3 Cr) – Environmental & Industrial Microbiology (E&I Micro)
This Fall course aims to introduce the fundamentals of E&I Micro, survey the disciplines, and discuss contemporary applications. Microbiology remains a frontier, but has developed significantly in recent years. Growth in this research area is largely due to vast improvements in molecular tools (eg, DNA fingerprinting) and other biochemical techniques, often driven by interest in emergent applications for these unique organisms. These applications include those related to protecting environmental quality as well as those related to making novel products, including materials, fuels, and chemicals. This course is therefore designed to introduce students to the taxonomy, biology and ecology of microbes, and then to focus on key applications, notably bioremediation and industrial biotechnology, for which these microbes can be applied.