Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Course Summary

The ability of bacterial cells to acclimate to unfavorable growth conditions has allowed such 'simple' microorganisms to thrive in environments uninhabitable by more complicated forms of life. By studying bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis and others under conditions of extreme heat, arctic temperatures, high light and acidic surroundings, researchers have identified and characterized genes involved in the acclimation of such microorganisms to and survival under stressful environments. How might organisms that are experts in cold acclimation, such as species of Psychrobacter bacteria from the Arctic, help us to identify life on Mars? What role does bacterial stress responses play in the production and contamination of your favorite food and drink? How do starvation and light stresses control primary energy production in lakes and ponds?

In this course, we will discuss the microbial physiology and genetics of stress responses in aquatic ecosystems, astrobiology, bacterial pathogenesis and other environments. We will learn about classical and novel methods utilized by researchers to uncover bacterial mechanisms induced under both general and environment-specific stresses. Finally, we will compare and contrast models for bacterial stress responses to gain an understanding of distinct mechanisms of survival and of why there are differences among bacterial genera.


7.13 and 7.21 are helpful for the course but not required.

Course Format

The first objective of this course is to increase students' skills in critically reading original research articles to understand the authors' overall 'message' and evaluate how well (or poorly) their information is presented to the reader. The second objective of the course is to expand students' knowledge about bacterial physiology and genetics, while discussing the various and important roles that bacteria play in industry, medicine, ecology and other faucets of life.

Each week, we will have an in-depth analysis of two original research articles about how bacteria thrive in adverse growth conditions to survive. All articles are listed in the Readings section. At the end of each class, information will be provided for articles to be discussed in the following class. Students are also expected to use online resources to help them review the assigned articles. Students must submit 2-3questions or comments about the upcoming class articles via email to the instructor (at least 24 hours) before the class.


For this course, the grading system is pass/fail and is based on class participation and completion of all assignments. Attendance is mandatory. For a passing grade, students may not have more than one absence. If a class is missed, the student must submit a 1-2 page summary of the articles discussed from the class missed within two weeks of his/her absence.