Microbiology students assigned to correct misconceptions

A microbiology instructor challenged her students to take what they’re learning outside the classroom and help people discover that what they think they know about science may be wrong. Here’s how one student followed through.

Microbiology 303 is an introductory survey class that typically has between 220 and 300 students.

Instructor Melissa Christopherson assigned students to identify a common misconception about microbiology and then research and educate the public about it through a slide show or brochure.

“The idea to do a service project in this class comes from my belief that college students should be contributing to their field, through education, research, or outreach rather than just absorbing information,” she says. It’s a way to fulfill the Wisconsin Idea, which calls for the university to spread knowledge beyond the borders of campus.


Student Thomas Sorenson of Rochester, Minn., chose to explore antibiotic-resistant bacteria. “I have an interest in medicine, and this topic is very applicable to that field,” he says. “Many young people take antibiotics for various afflictions and have heard of antibiotic resistance, but do not understand how it occurs or how to prevent it. My intent was to educate students so that they would have a better functional understanding of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.”

Sorenson presented to the AP Biology classes at Madison Memorial High School.

“I think that they were interested, and I had them very engaged.  They were especially intrigued by the expanding number of AB-resistant bacteria and the importance of finding new ways to address the problem,” he says.

“I learned much more about AB-resistant bacteria and also that I enjoy teaching from this experience. Though I don’t intend to enter the field of infectious disease, I intend to incorporate teaching into my career as a physician and continue educating future scientists.”

– Sara Griswold