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What I do for a living Part 4: Teaching

In addition to my post-doctoral research, I also do a small amount of teaching.  Last fall, I taught the laboratory section of a course on Host-Associated Microbiomes at Montana State University.  I redesigned the lab to focus on teaching students how to process and analyze sequencing data, which they had no previous experience in.  Starting with raw data from mock samples, students had to assemble sequences into contigs, pass them through quality assurance steps, align and classify them based on a reference database of their choosing, and statistically compare diversity between samples.  This culminated in a final scientific manuscript, which presented the student’s findings and gave them experience with scientific writing.

This fall, in addition to teaching the lab section, I’m very pleased to announce that I’ll also be teaching some of the class lecture portion.  Most of that will be presenting an introduction to microbial ecology, theory, terminology, and technology.  This will give a base of knowledge for the rest of the course on microbiomes.  Scientific discovery is inextricably linked to the ability and accuracy of the technology available at the time.  To understand how we went from discovering there were microscopic organisms living in water to being able to sequence the entire genome of that organism to understand how it interacts with medications in the human body, we need to understand the technological steps in between.  That way, we can better understand how scientists worked through microbial theories of the past (like disproving Spontaneous Generation), so that we can learn how to work through the microbial theories of the present (like Hygiene Theory).

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