The Biochemistry of Bacteria

The Biochemistry of Bacteria
Students Reached:150 high school students
Lead Researcher:  Dr. Alvaro Estevez, the University of Central Florida
Lead Teacher Ms. Marisa Fuse, Bishop Moore Catholic High School  

Dr. Alvaro Estevez, of the University of Central Florida, worked with Ms. Marisa Fuse, of Bishop Moore Catholic High School, to design and implement hands-on activities for 50 high school students. The goal of these lessons was to familiarize students with the techniques and applications of gel electrophoresis, cell culture, bacterial transformation, and immunofluoresence.

Dr. Estevez presented a lecture on neurodegenerative disorders at Bishop Moore Catholic High School, and he and his lab members prepared experimental material for high school students to perform in his laboratory. Ms. Fuse organized three field trips to Dr. Estevez’s lab for these experiments. Students performed all the aforementioned techniques while learning about the biochemistry of different bacterial species. In one experiment, students transformed bacteria with plasmids encoding different antibiotic resistance genes. They also learned about various features of mammalian cells by using immunofluorescence to label the various organelles.

Immunofluorescence was of particular interest to students, as it is commonly included in textbooks but rarely performed in high schools, and so more material dedicated to this technique was included. Many students were surprised to see that cells have more than one mitochondrion. This was a great opportunity for students to appreciate that illustrative diagrams in textbooks, although useful, are not always strictly accurate.

Ms. Fuse administered follow-up surveys after each activity, and many students indicated that they enjoyed seeing the multiple roles that scientists can play and the jobs they can pursue. Most students who participated in this program were already interested in STEM disciplines, but after these activities had a better understanding of the real-life applications of the material they learn in class.

ASBMB HOPES funding was used to purchase micropipettors, a mini centrifuge, and kits for plasmid isolation, ligation, and bacterial transformation. The tools purchased with this award will be used in future iterations of this program. In order to reach more students, organizers will aim to include more activities that can be done at Bishop Moore Catholic High School in addition to hosting more field trips throughout the year.