Inside the classroom

A day in the life

Inside the classroom

inside the classroom_microbio_11318-P-087665 (2)

This is why we do labs—and why there is a lab for this course. Medicine does rely on lab work.





You’ll benefit from our professors’ knowledge and expertise, as they present and explain important concepts related to bacteriology, genetics, virology, and immunology, including host-pathogen interactions; the mechanisms of inflammation; and medical and molecular virology.

In some courses, professors may co-teach, either during the same lecture or presenting a different aspect of the same topic the following week. A professor with expertise in virology would present the connection between cancers and viruses, while another professor specializing in immunology would then discuss how the body responds to cancer-cell growth. This way, you can be sure you’re getting the multi-disciplinary perspective necessary for a career in medicine or another aspect of health sciences.

In specialized upper-level courses like Microscopy, you’ll learn essential research skills including physical and chemical principles governing technical procedures such as fixation, staining, freeze-fracture, immunocytochemistry, autoradiography, X-ray microanalysis, and photography. During laboratory periods, you’ll have the opportunity through individual projects to get hands on experience with some of the techniques covered in lectures.

Labs and tutorials

In the lab components for some Microbiology and Immunology courses, you’ll examine samples and identify areas where viruses have damaged cells, for example, or determine the structure and synthesis of antibodies.

Tutorials, a component of some courses, provide further opportunity to reinforce topics covered in class and ask questions if you wish to explore a particular area in greater depth. 

Inside an Introduction to Microbiology and Immunology course

It’s the last class of the term. Projected on the screen at the front of the auditorium are the words: “Outbreak in the ER – Four arduous weeks at a hospital.”

The professor, Dr. Nikhil Thomas, announces you’re about to be in a situation where you’ll have to make some decisions. These kinds of hypothetical scenarios, Dr. Thomas says, are very good preparation for careers in medicine or research. And as the scenario becomes increasingly complex, it’s clear exercises like this encourage you to apply what you’ve learned in previous classes. And, in the short term, they prepare you for that mid-term exam.

The situation: Two children are brought to the emergency room with symptoms ranging from severe diarrhea to lethargy. The parents think their kids have food poisoning, but they can’t figure out what might have caused it; the parents had eaten the same things, and they’re fine. The two children, however, go to the same school. Dr. Thomas pauses before asking: What do you do next?

Call on other health professionals, he says. Ask lots of questions—both the kids and their parents—to rule out some possibilities. Follow up with empirical evidence, he says. Send samples to the lab for culture analysis.

Dr. Thomas interrupts his presentation to emphasize a point: “This is why we do labs—and why there is a lab for this course,” he says, noting that medicine relies on lab work.

He continues with the case study detail by detail, asking students as he goes along what should be done, or not done, to figure out why these kids are sick. By providing one piece of the puzzle at a time, Dr. Thomas encourages students to think from the perspective of an ER doctor.

Those poor children in the ER? They'd all had the same unpasteurized apple juice on their field trip, exposing them to pathogenic e coli bacteria. The e coli in turn had been infected by a virus that produced the Shiga toxin, responsible for some of the children’s more severe symptoms.