Antibiotic Drug Discovery: Identifying Novel Soil Microbes to Combat Resistance

Course Description

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

The main focus of the course will be for you to attempt to discover new antibiotics in soil bacteria and fungus that can ultimately be used to treat infectious diseases. 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.

This CRE course will be conducted in a Hybrid format. The first 2 weeks will be virtual with you researching your chosen topic and learning about various scientific techniques that can be used to test your hypothesis. There will be live sessions each week where we will discuss your projects and provide feedback on the experimental design. You will spend the next 3 weeks on-campus at Brown performing your experiments in our laboratory facilities.

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

Next, you 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. You will do bioinformatic analysis on data collected and maintained by the Tiny Earth Organization. You will present your work and learn skills related to scientific communication.

By the end of this course, you 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


Students must be 16 by June 19, 2022, to participate in this course. A.P. Biology is recommended but not required.


One Section Available to Choose From:

Online sections of Pre-College courses are offered in one of the following modalities: Asynchronous, Mostly asynchronous, or Blended. Please review full information regarding the experience here.

Dates: July 05, 2022 - August 05, 2022
Duration: 5 Weeks
Meeting Times: Online - Blended 7/5-7/17 with required live sessions every Monday from 9:30AM - 11:00AM Eastern Standard Time (EST) and On-Campus 7/18-8/5 M-F 8:30A-11:20A
Status: Closed
Format: Hybrid
Instructor(s): Toni-Marie Achilli
Course Number: 10157