Course Description: Microbes and social equity
This colloquium course introduces students to current knowledge on selected host-associated or human-associated microbiomes, and uses that base knowledge to discuss their relevance to human health in the context of social equity. Example topics include the effect of diet on the microbial community in the gut and the importance of nutrient composition of free school lunches; maternal stress and the effect on offspring physiology, immune development, and host-microbial interactions; microbial communities in air, air quality, and income-based housing; building quality, indoor microbiology, and enforced occupancy (ex. prisons or public schools); and more. Guest lectures from relevant experts will be included as possible.
Some background in microbial ecology, genetics, anatomy, immunology, or sociology would be helpful, but is not required. While difficult concepts will be discussed, the course is intended to teach students about the basic principles and how to apply them to contemporary social issues: what is a microbiome? How does host anatomy and health drive microbial ecology? How does environmental microbiology and building microbiology contribute to or impinge on health? When we read about host-associated microbiomes in the news, especially regarding health, how can we assess if the study is rigorous and how should we interpret the scope of the findings? The skill-set objectives include learning to review scientific journal articles, distilling their findings while understanding their limitations, and developing science communication skills via written assignments and in-class discussions.