Bio 095: Superbugs in modern society: Origin, diversity, and control.

Linden Higgins, Ph.D.
Department of Biology
115 Marsh Life Sciences
(802) 656-9598
Super-bugs, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, are increasingly in the news along with dire
predictions of the "end of the age of antibiotics." What isn't often discussed is where
these super-bugs are in our environment, how they evolve resistance, and what can be
done to reduce their impact on society. These challenging questions will be the heart of
our work in this summer class for non-science majors, pre-service teachers, and advanced
high-school students. The first week, we will meet on-line and work together to come up
to speed on tools and concepts we need for our laboratory research. The second two
weeks we will be in the laboratory on campus, designing and executing studies to
investigate the diversity of bacteria in our immediate surroundings and patterns of
antibiotic resistance. The fourth week, we will work on-line to develop informational
media to educate the general public on what needs to be done to preserve the
effectiveness of antibiotics in modern society.
I reserve the right to alter this syllabus as needed to meet student needs and learning
Course goals:
By the end of this course, students will be able to
1. Design and execute an experiment and interpret the results
2. Explain the role of natural selection in shaping organism structure and function
3. Use molecular genetic information to explain evolution of antibiotic resistance
4. Communicate scientific processes and outcomes to a general audience.
General Course Expectations
A. Contributions: Prepared participation in all classes and activities is essential
to learning new material. I expect all students to read and think critically about assigned
materials, and respond appropriately to fellow classmates in discussions and during other
collaborative work. Participation is a significant portion of your grade.
B. Work-load expectations: This class is a four-credit hybrid class with a
laboratory. The first and last weeks of the course will be online, the middle two weeks
will be on campus, primarily in the laboratory. On line or in person, there will be minimal
lecturing in this class. I expect all students to have covered the required content and
arrive prepared to ask questions. Once we are certain that everyone is comfortable with
the content, we will turn our attention to the discussion topic and problems.
Online: During the on-line portion of the course, I expect all students to spend on
average 16 hours/week reading, contributing meaningfully to on-line discussions, and
working on projects.

Face-to-face: We will meet in a biology laboratory four days a week during the
on-campus portion of the course. You are expected to come prepared to engage with the
material and your classmates, which will require you to spend time each evening reading
and reflecting on assigned materials.
C. Religious Observance:
The official policy for excused absences for religious holidays: Students have the
right to practice the religion of their choice. Each semester students should submit in writing
to their instructors by the end of the second full week of classes their documented religious
holiday schedule for the semester. Faculty must permit students who miss work for the
purpose of religious observance to make up this work.
D. Academic Honesty and Professionalism:
All students are required to be familiar with and adhere to the “Academic Honesty Policy
Procedures” delineated in the following website: ).
Academic dishonesty includes:
Acquiring from other persons or from commercial organizations, or other sources,
or utilizing other unauthorized assistance, and submitting, unattributed and as one's own
work, homework assignments, term papers, research reports, laboratory reports, or
comparable documents prepared in whole or in part by others than oneself.
Academic dishonesty also includes:
Presenting the same or substantially the same written work term paper, research
report, essay or the like as part of the requirements of more than one course, without the
express prior written permission of the instructors involved.
E. Accommodations:
Accommodations will be provided to eligible students with disabilities. Please
obtain an accommodation letter from the ACCESS office and contact me early in the
course to discuss what accommodations will be necessary. If you are unfamiliar with
ACCESS, visit their website at to learn more about the
services they provide. ACCESS: A-170 Living Learning Center, University of Vermont,
Burlington, VT 05405. PH: 802-656-7753, TTY: call 711 (relay), Fax: 802-656-0739,
Email:, Instant Messenger: UVMaccess. General office hours:
8:30am – 4:30pm Monday through Friday. Call to make an appointment.
F. Technical Help Resources
Technical help can be obtained on-line, through email, or through phone in support:
For Blackboard telephone support, call UVM Computing Helpline:
(802) 656-2604
test taking tips

Grading Criteria
In addition to helping you learn biology, I have designed this course to help you become
comfortable engaging in critical discussion of science and media reports about science.
To support this goal, I have designed the class to allow you many opportunities to work
individually and with your classmates to explain and support your opinions. Your final
grade will be calculated based upon four components:


Reading: 10% of final grade. Because we are focusing our discussion time on
processes, problem solving, and experiments, everyone must read the assignments and
view the Powerpoint lectures. I will evaluate this by considering the evidence you bring
to bear in your contributions to the threaded discussions and in-class conversations (a
grading rubric will be posted prior to the beginning of the semester). I reserve the right to
add mini-quizzes or homework assignments if it becomes clear that many students are not
doing the reading carefully or completely.
Journals: 10% of final grade. Scientific reasoning underlies all good scientific
writing, and to provide practice and regular feedback every student will ten writing
exercises, responding to prompts in a journal entry which only I can see. Thinking about
and writing about these prompts will help prepare you for our discussions. On occasion,
you may need to do independent reading to fully respond to a prompt.
Participation: 20% of final grade
a) In class: You are expected to come to class prepared to thoughtfully work on
group projects and discussions, using evidence and logic to support your opinions.
b) On-line: The best way to become comfortable with new skills is to practice. The
course web page will have threaded discussions for each topic, and you are required to
participate (see reading, above). Minimal required participation is one unique
contribution and comments on two other students' contributions for each topic.
Projects: This is a laboratory course with a focus on helping you understand and
communicate how science helps us to understand complex issues in the natural world, in
this case the evolution of antibiotic resistance. We will have two projects, plus activities
in class and on-line that help you to develop those projects and your final products.
a) On-line simulations. 15 % of final grade. Working in pairs, you will do two online exercises, one on evolution through natural selection and the other on foundational
concepts in molecular genetics. After each simulation, you will individually take a brief
quiz (short answer and structured response).
b) Laboratory project. 20 % of final grade. Working in pairs, which you will
choose, you will use a standard bacterial sampling protocol to test your ideas about where
antibiotic-resistant bacteria will be more likely to be found. We will build this protocol
together during the first week, and execute it the second week of the face-to-face portion
of the class. You will be graded on three products: Your protocol (handed in), your

explanation of the logic behind the protocol (your "introduction," handed in and
presented to the class), and your final results, including the introduction in revised form,
the actual protocol, and the results with interpretation.
c) Final project. 25 % of final grade. Using a format of your choosing (such as web
page(s), mini documentary, written blog or policy statement, lesson plan), you will
describe a scientific process or problem related to the topics in this class (such as
evolution, the process of science, antibiotic function, etc.) that (1) is often misunderstood
in the general public, (2) has a consensus opinion at least in basic principles among
scientists, and (3) is important for society. After providing evidence for each of these
three points, your project should then present a comprehensible explanation of the
problem for a general audience. If you are developing a lesson plan, it should be
explicitly aligned with NGSS and specifically targeting an student population. Be
prepared to share your final product with the class, and to watch/read and comment upon
at least three of the projects from classmates.
Tentative calendar:
Week 1, On-line. The process and nature of science, foundations of evolutionary theory.
You will have readings on each of these topics, threaded discussions, two journal entries,
and two simulations with follow-up quizzes.
Week 2, Face-to-face. The nature and expression of genes, with a focus on bacteria. The
structure and function of proteins, and the relationship between protein structure and
genetic information. Preliminary survey: sampling bacteria and describing diversity.
Main experiment: develop and present protocols and underlying logic for your design.
Start main experiment.
Week 3, Face-to-face. The ways in which bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics, which
we will tie to our understandings of evolution, the nature and expression of genes, and the
relationship between protein structure and function. Finish experiments, analyze results
and design a graphical presentation, and brainstorm interpretations of your data.
Week 4, On-line. Communicating complex topics. Two projects will be completed this
week. First, working in groups, you will do an on-line presentation (web page or blog
format) of your final laboratory results. Second, you will finish your final projects.
Threaded discussions, journal assignments, and intermediate products will provide you
with opportunities to work on these projects and obtain feedback from myself and your