Microbes, molecules and mankind...
Microbes are the most numerous and biologically diverse organisms on earth. They occupy virtually every available ecological niche on the planet. One gram of soil can contain between 10,000 and 1,000,000 species of microbes. 

So what do all these different microbes do? Microbiologists already know that soil organisms such as the Gram positive filamentous Streptomycetes and related organisms produce 60-70% of antibiotics in current use and the Gram negative Pseudomonads degrade and recycle environmental pollutants. But microbes do so much more. A small proportion are major pathogens of man, animals and plants. Yet other microbes are capable of producing large quantities of the clean renewable fuels such as hydrogen, ethanol and electricity.

The quest is on to determine what other functions and processes members of this vast microbial world perform. Molecular microbiology uses bacterial genetics, molecular biology and bacterial physiology to study microorganisms of medical, industrial and environmental importance. It explains how a wide range of bacterial genes including those involved in antibiotic synthesis are cloned, sequenced and expressed in heterologous hosts such as E.coliK12. It provides valuable insights into how genes, such as those involved in pathogenicity, are regulated at the molecular level. And it describes how the many genomic sequencing projects can be used to frame the relationships between all microorganisms.
What do I do in this course?
MICR3003 provides valuable insights into the biology of microorganisms at the molecular level. It is an essential component in our understanding of microorganisms which are important in medicine, industry and the environment. The course has a strong practical element which helps to develop skills in:
  • the cloning and expression of a wide range of single and multiple gene phenotypes involved in the synthesis of antitumour antibiotics, bacterial pathogenicity, degradation and recycling of environmental pollutants, synthesis of carotenoid antioxidants, synthesis of the blue clothing dye indigo, and the industrial enzyme that makes beer clear.
  • the transfer of plasmids by conjugation and transformation. The transfer of antibiotic resistance by specialised transduction using a viral vector which also behaves like a plasmid.
  • the isolation of a variety of spontaneous mutants which increase antibiotic resistance and antibiotic synthesis in bacteria. And use the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) as a bioprospecting tool to identify streptomycetes which produce novel variants of a major group of anti-tumour antibiotics in current use to treat cancer.
Career relevance of this course:
Microbial science is an exciting, cutting edge discipline.
Microbiology impacts on virtually every aspect of daily life. It is central to our understanding and treatment of infectious diseases and cancers, to the production of renewable fuels, to the degradation and recycling of environmental pollutants, to the greenhouse effect and global warming, to the production of the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe.

Microbiologists are employed in all of these areas of human endeavour.
Program planning advice:

The course coordinator recommends this course for inclusion on the Microbiology major, the Bioinformatics dual major, the Immunology & Infectious Diseases stream of the single and extended Biomedical Science major, the Biophysics dual major, the Molecular Genetics stream of the Genetics major and the Chemistry & Chemical Biology stream of the Chemical Sciences major.

For an official description of this course, including prerequisites and contact hours, and for the official rules of programs, including majors requirements, see the UQ Programs & Courses website.