2020 journal article
Catalyzing rapid discovery of gold-precipitating bacterial lineages with university students
PeerJ, 8, e8925.
Intriguing and potentially commercially useful microorganisms are found in our surroundings and new tools allow us to learn about their genetic potential and evolutionary history. Engaging students from different disciplines and courses in the search for microbes requires an exciting project with innovative but straightforward procedures and goals. Here we describe an interdisciplinary program to engage students from different courses in the sampling, identification and analysis of the DNA sequences of a unique yet common microbe, Delftia spp. A campus-wide challenge was created to identify the prevalence of this genus, able to precipitate gold, involving introductory level environmental and life science courses, upper-level advanced laboratory modules taken by undergraduate students (juniors and seniors), graduate students and staff from the campus. The number of participants involved allowed for extensive sampling while undergraduate researchers and students in lab-based courses participated in the sample processing and analyses, helping contextualize and solidify their learning of the molecular biology techniques. The results were shared at each step through publicly accessible websites and workshops. This model allows for the rapid discovery of Delftia presence and prevalence and is adaptable to different campuses and experimental questions.