PRINCIPLES OF MICROBIOLOGY
Practical Component: 20%
Microbiology (8th ed) - Prescott, Harvey & Klein
Official UoA Website: link.
I’ll be straight-up honest, as a Biomedical Science student intending to specialise in Microbiology and immunology this course bored me immensely except for the Biomedical Microbiology section which I found very interesting. There are four lectures a week held in the City campus, and in 2014 it happened to be right before MEDSCI 203 on some days meaning I had to leave in 20 minutes early to get to Grafton. For those wishing to specialise in the biomedical aspect of microbiology I would strongly advise you to do MEDSCI 202 instead - I’ve heard without exception that it is a super fun and easy course, and it is held in Grafton before MEDSCI 203 meaning you won’t have to miss half of lectures every week. BIOSCI 204 however is video-recorded but so is MEDSCI 202. I would definitely recommend MEDSCI 202 over BIOSCI 204 purely because of the focus on the biomedical aspect of microbes and saves you learning about other aspects which you may not be interested in e.g. ecological microbiology.
In terms of content quantity, it shouldn’t be too much to handle compared to first year papers - as long as you stay on top it you won’t find it too difficult to do well in this paper. The content taught is not difficult either, much like the earlier BIOSCI papers you have done it is pretty much just memorising. With good effort you should be able to do pretty well.
In terms of labs, they weren’t too difficult either. The techniques and procedures are almost the same every lab - spread your bacteria onto agar plates and make the relevant observations and descriptions. They were more-so monotonous and boring rather than anything else. With that having been said, I remember some labs especially towards the end can be quite stressful if you don’t manage your time properly so do stay focused and on track during the laboratory exercises. I do not clearly remember the lab content being tested in the In-Course Test or the exam, but potentially it is testable so do be wary. That being said, it should be your last priority after you’ve already been through your lecture notes. These are taken in and marked by your lab tutors at certain checkpoints (i.e. unlike some other biology labs, you don’t get a question sheet that you have to hand in at the end of every lab).
The lab assignments I didn’t find too difficult to complete although there was a bit of confusion regarding the computer software we were required to use; so peer collaboration is advised. But my marks for these weren’t good so please do not get complacent and leave it till the last minute to find out that you don’t know how to access the program needed etc. The research essay I really enjoyed doing and found it interesting probably because I managed to book the topic I wanted, and managed to do quite well. I know many people who left this till the last minute - don’t be one of them. Give yourself plenty of time and you should do well. These assignments and the essay are handed in to the Biology building and an electronic copy of the essay to Turnitin to check for plagiarism.
Dr. Gavin Lear gave 7 lectures in the first block of BIOSCI 204 in 2014. His section provides a good introductory to the structures and anatomy of prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. You will start off with microscopy, then prokaryotic diversity and classification, cell wall structure, motility, signalling, and chemotaxis, protists, microorganisms in the environment and a tutorial at the end. His content isn’t difficult to understand - but some of you may find it boring. Note that some seemingly “fun” content such as how to name your own micro-organism was examined in 2014 so be aware!
Evolution of Microbes
Dr. Augusto Barbosa gave the second block on evolution and genetics of micro-organisms, as well as lectures on viruses and fungi totaling 6 lectures followed by a tutorial. His was more difficult to understand than Dr. Lear’s so please be proactive and ask him if you have any questions. He is very friendly and also the course coordinator so is your go-to man for any course queries in general. Again however memorisation of blunt facts is needed.
Dr. Silas Vilas-Boas gave what most people would say the most boring and difficult block of lectures on metabolism, lasting 5 lectures and a tutorial. This is (almost) like the BIOSCI 106 of microbiology, where you have to memorise cycles of microbial metabolism pathways and their confusing names. My advice would be to leave this section last and study everything else well, and for his section do past exam questions as he does repeat them like he did in 2014.
Dr. Mike Taylor will lecture you on microbiology in the environment, and you will learn about the biotechnological potential of microbiology and applying ecological concepts to microbiology. This is where the course gets arguably more interesting as in contrast to the first half you now get to learn about applied microbiology in the real world. His content was rather interesting and quite easy, not very content heavy. He is also a very approachable and friendly person which helps immensely. Dr. Matt Goddard also had one lecture on biogeography and while he is quite enthusiastic and cheerful the content again bored me.
Dr. Augusto Barbosa’s lecture on biomedical microbiology was by far my favourite part of the course - you’ll learn about microbial and host interactions, the recognition and invasion of hosts, how microbial pathogens disseminate, as well as infection and diseases by viruses, bacteria, and protozoan parasites. If you’re like me studying this section shouldn’t be a problem because it is so interesting, and again Dr. Barbosa is a very friendly and approachable person so please don’t hesitate to ask him for help.
Dr. Mike Pearson’s lectures on plant microbiology focused on nutrient cycling, plant productivity, plant pathogens, microbes as biological control agents and microbial conversion of essential nutrients and plant-microbial symbiosis. Rote-learning of flowcharts is required but is not overly difficult and content heavy, but again as someone with no interest in plants it could get boring. There was also one guest lecture given by Dr. Damien Fleetwood which was on plant symbiosis in agriculture that ties nicely with Dr. Pearson’s content.
The final block is food microbiology by Prof. Gillian Lewis. Again as a biomed major I found them quite boring, but if you’re a Food Science/Nutrition student your opinion will likely differ. She is a very passionate and enthusiastic lecturer, and the information she teaches are quite applicable to our own lives so integration of content taught can help make this section more interesting.