14 April, 2012

A-Z Blogging Challenge: Microbiology

Agar plate with microorganisms. Public domain image. SOURCE.
Microbiology is the study of microorganisms (also called microbes), including bacteria, archaea, algae, fungi, protozoa, viruses, and prions.

The field began when Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), a Dutch draper who ground lenses and created microscopes as a hobby, described and drew many microorganisms, which he called "animalcules". Microbiology was further developed when in 1864 Louis Pasteur disproved spontaneous generation (or abiogenesis; that living things could come from nonliving matter) and Ferdinand Cohn classified bacteria in 1872.

There are eight important characteristics of microorganisms: morphology (size, shape, and arrangement of cells), nutrition, physiology, reproduction and growth, metabolism, pathogenesis (whether the microorganism is disease-causing), antigenicity (whether the microorganisms causes antibodies to be released when introduced into an animal), and genetic characterization (the chemical composition, synthesis, and replication of genetic material).

These characteristics are studied using a range of technology. Microscopy includes light microscopy (light microscopes have magnifications up to 2000x), electron microscopy (with magnifications that enable things as small as .02 nanometers), atomic force microscopy (which can create images of any material), scanning tunneling microscopy (which generates 3D images), and immunoelectron microscopy (which uses antibodies to detect intracellular structures).

E. coli bacteria. Public domain image. SOURCE.
Microbiology has many branches; some of its sub-fields are genetic engineering, soil microbiology, aquatic microbiology, food microbiology, medical microbiology, plant pathology, biochemistry, bacteriology, mycology (study of fungi), protozoology (protozoa), phycology (algae), parasitology (parasites), virology (viruses--this is the subject for my upcoming V post), and bioinformatics (analysis of genomes).

Notable Microbiologist:

Ruth Ley

Ruth Ley is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University. She has been awarded the National Institutes of Health (NIH) New Innovator award and the Packard Fellowship, and was a Packard Fellow, Hartwell Investigator, and Beckman Young Investigator.

She has worked on research involving the effects of fire on woodlands, nitrogen content of water due to microorganisms in soil, and bacteria in the gut of a range of animals (including humans), sequencing over 20,000 genes and comparing them with microorganisms from humans, rats, cows, and gorillas. Her current research team focuses on symbionts and the affect their mammalian hosts have on their diversity in the gut.




It's amazing how many microorganisms are around, on, and in everything, isn't it?

-----The Golden Eagle


Trisha said...

Science pictures can so often be so very beautiful! I love looking at pics of microscopic bits & pieces :)

Gail said...

It's amazing the tiny things we see. Makes Horton Hears A Who so much more believable.

Jean said...

Wow. That was fascinating. We donated a ton of blood to various research organizations ( they were all fighting over whether or not we should only donate to one organization or not) from Stanford University to New York City and on and on, to assist in research concerning autism in the early days of the autism boom. They wanted us to participate because we have two sons with severe autism. That was like striking gold at the time. We would do anything to help. We were in USA Today, misquoted of course, when they found something on the locus of one of our genes. Yes, the implication was that there is a genetic predisposition to autism. Just something I thought you might be insterested in after this great entry of yours.

Susan Roebuck said...

A friend is studying microbiology and now, thank God, I can talk to her about something (always wondered what on earth it was). Not sure which branch she's in, so that'll be a great intelligent conversation opener. I see you have a thousand followers! Yay! Well done G.E.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Fascinating post!

Pat Hatt said...

Blah you just irked my ocd with this one..hahaha..amazing yes, but knowing I'm host to thousands of those buggers, blah...haha

Charles Gramlich said...

Microbes, our most dangerous enemies! :)

Clarissa Draper said...

I think after this A-Z is over, I'm going to make my son read these points for his home-schooling lessons.

Jemi Fraser said...

So many of the pictures from microbiology would make beautiful art! :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Trisha: Me, too. :)

Gail: That's a fun story!

Jean: Wow. Definitely interesting--I'd heard that there was evidence autism might have genetic causes, but there seem to be a lot of conflicting viewpoints as to whether it's genetic or environmental or both.

Susan: Thank you so much! I just saw the number a few minutes ago, and I'm through the roof. :D

Tyrean: Thank you!

Pat: If I think about it too hard, it bugs me too. :P

Charles: Yup. There are so many dangerous ones--and they can reproduce so quickly!

Clarissa: I'd be thrilled if you did! Though I originally intended these posts to be just a quick overview of different fields, not really useful for much except to those who were curious about the subjects . . .

Jemi: They would! :)

Cherie Reich said...

Amazing, yes, and more than a bit creepy. Hehe!

Sofia said...

My sister is majoring in biochemistry, in college. When I saw the title of this post, I got really excited, because I actually recognized the name of it. ;)

A Quiet Corner said...

Thanks for reminding me about all the microorganisms! Being hung up on life, I forget! Nice to meet you!...:)JP

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I imagine one of the largest fields of science.

J.C. Martin said...

Microorganisms are truly fascinating! They are the cause of some of the world's deadliest diseases, and yet they are also responsible for some of our most powerful medicines! They are used to make your food, and you can find them EVERYWHERE, even on you and inside you!

J.C. Martin
A to Z Blogger

Lynda R Young said...

This is one field I wouldn't want to study... Interesting from a distance, though ;)

Patricia Stoltey said...

You picked a very complex theme for the A to Z. This must be taking you ages to put together each post. I, of course, took the easy path and went for short and personal...no research involved.

Patricia Stoltey

DWei said...

I've had friends who took Microbio. They said it was a nightmare.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I remember enjoying microbiology in high school and college.

Eliza Wynn said...

Great post! I didn't take any microbiology courses in college.

Ellie, who has 3 blogs in the challenge
Ellie's Blank Book
Ellie's Couch
Help Michigan Pets

....Petty Witter said...

How interesting to see that e-coli like that, it looks so harmless, a bit like a blob of chewed gum that has been left to harden.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Nice lesson on microbiology.

Anglers Rest said...

Fascinating theme for your challenge, I will have to subscribe to keep up!

Anglers Rest (www.anglersrest.net)

Simon Kewin said...

Fascinating stuff, as ever. I should probably know all this as I'm married to a microbiologist ...

Donna K. Weaver said...

Where would we be without this area of study? We're fortunate to live now and not 100 years ago.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Golden, be sure to stop by tomorrow - got a surprise for you!

Nas Dean said...

Interesting topic for your letter 'M!'

The Golden Eagle said...

Cherie: LOL. Yeah, it is . . .

Sofia: Cool! I almost wrote about biochemistry for my B post, but since I was already covering sub-fields of biology and inorganic chemistry, I decided to go with biotechnology instead. Biochemistry is fascinating, though. :)

A Quiet Corner: You're welcome!

Nice to meet you, too.

Alex: There are definitely a LOT of microorganisms.

J.C.: Yup. I remember watching an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson where he mentioned there are more bacteria in your colon than there have been humans in the history of Earth . . .

Lynda: I think I might get a little paranoid after a while if I studied it; at least if it had to do with animals!

Patricia: I scheduled almost all my posts (Z I finished on April 1) before the A-Z Challenge began, so I'm actually spending most of my blogging time commenting and visiting new blogs. :)

DWei: Oh. I wonder why that was.

Medeia: Thanks!

Eliza: Thank you.

Petty Witter: Microorganisms are so . . . non-threatening if you just look at them. There aren't any big "DANGER" signs on them, at any rate. :P

Sharon: Thank you!

Anglers: Thanks for following my blog. :)

Simon: That's awesome.

Donna: Definitely! I'm glad I don't live in a time period where humans haven't developed the technologies we have today . . . though in the future, people will probably be saying they're glad they didn't live in the early 21st century. :P

Alex: Really?! Now I'm excited--can't wait to visit your blog tomorrow!

Nas: Thanks. :)

Shelley said...

Yes, it is quite interesting! :) And a little confusing with all the different terminology! Nice, very informative, post Golden Eagle!

Theresa Milstein said...

My husband took microbiology classes in college.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the sub fields are just as if not more interesting than the parent field. Genetic engineering is a fascinating and terrifying field. Depends on who is doing it.

Amanda Trought said...

Strolling by in the A-Z train, really find your blog informative, we did some micro biology at uni...long time..., looking forward to reading more posts. Blessings, Amanda

Amanda - Realityarts-Creativity
Art Blog

The Golden Eagle said...

Shelley: Thank you!

Theresa: Did he enjoy them?

Stephen: They are.

Hopefully the good people will continue doing it . . . though that's probably unlikely.

Amanda: Thanks! :)

I hope you like my upcoming posts.

Christine Rains said...

Truly it is amazing.

The Golden Eagle said...

Christine: :)

Deniz Bevan said...

I've gotta say, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear microbiology is Madeleine l'Engle's stories... mitochondria and music!

The Golden Eagle said...

Deniz: It's interesting what will come up together in fiction. :)