Antibiotic Drug Discovery: Identifying Novel Soil Microbes to Combat Antibiotic Resistance

« Return to Course Catalog

One Section Available to Choose From:

Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
June 28, 2021 - August 11, 20216/28 - 8/116 WeeksOnlineOpenOnlineToni-Marie Achilli

Course Description

This is a Course-based Research Experience (CRE) class that will provide students with the chance to propose, design, and conduct their own research projects, working on topics and seeking answers to questions that are currently unknown to science.

Antibiotic resistance - the ability for bacteria to mutate and evolve, and thus cause antibiotics to fail - is a major global health threat. Pharmaceutical companies are less likely to fund research and development of new antibiotics due to their relative low profitability. As bacteria become more resistant to the antibiotics we use today, it is critical that we have a pipeline of novel antibiotics to combat these pathogens. The main focus of the course will be for students to attempt to discover new antibiotics in soil bacteria and fungus that can ultimately be used to treat infectious disease. Most antibiotics used today are molecules produced by soil bacteria and fungi, used as a defense mechanism to promote their own survival. It is estimated that over 10 billion bacterial cells can inhabit a single gram of soil, and the majority of them are not characterized.

Students in this course will work individually and collaboratively in small groups to develop the critical thinking skills critical to being a successful scientist. Students will do this in the context of antibiotic discovery and will analyze novel bacteria within soil samples. Students will be introduced to PCR, Gel Electrophoresis, DNA-sequencing, bioinformatics, and laboratory tests to characterize their unique isolates.

Next, students will design experiments to see if the bacterial isolates have antibiotic activity against "safe-relatives" of pathogens that are resistant to common antibiotics, and that are prevalent in hospital settings causing many infections each year. Students will do bioinformatic analysis on data collected and maintained by the Tiny Earth Organization. Students will present their work and learn skills related to scientific communication.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Think like a biologist by applying the scientific method to a significant global health threat
  • Use appropriate terms to describe antibiotic resistance and the risk that antibiotic resistance poses to global health
  • Design experiments to discover novel antibiotics
  • Analyze isolates of bacteria, characterize and identify the isolates, and determine if the isolates produce small molecules with antibiotic properties
  • Predict experimental outcomes
  • Critically analyze data and design future experiments
  • Communicate scientific results

Prerequisites: A.P. Biology is recommended but not required.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEBI0956

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

Visit Program Page View Course Pricing Information Sessions Learn How to Apply