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Major in Microbiology
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Microm 496 Library Research
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Microbiology 496 Library Research Paper

Microbiology 496 (a two-unit course) is required of all microbiology majors.  The purpose of this course is to have students explore a "microbiological" topic of their choice, based on current research publications.  MICROM 496 is also a writing course and is intended as an exercise in good scientific writing.  Normally students take this course after they have had some exposure to microbiology enabling them to decide which areas in microbiology are of the most interest to them.  Students are assigned a grade for MICROM 496, and microbiology majors are required to have a grade of at least 1.8.

A MICROM 496 orientation workshop is offered in the first week of every quarter.  Students may attend this workshop any time during the major, and are strongly advised to attend no later than the quarter before registering for MICROM 496.  Topics covered include how to write a good research paper, choosing an appropriate topic, use of PubMed, how to find a mentor, role of the mentor and mentor’s expectations, student’s responsibilities, and time management.

It is up to the student to contact a faculty member and arrange for them to be the sponsor.  Research interests of Microbiology faculty are listed at http://depts.washington.edu/micro/faculty/index.htm.  Sarah Mears, Academic Adviser, mears@u.washington.edu, K-357A Health Sciences, can provide recommendations on how to find a faculty sponsor.  Please check the Time Schedule (http://www.washington.edu/students/timeschd/) for registration deadlines.  Students engaged in laboratory research (MICROM 499) are encouraged to use MICROM 496 to write up their research results.  The reports will be evaluated by the research mentor and credit for both MICROM 499 and 496 will be assigned by the mentor.

Occasionally, faculty members from outside the Microbiology Department will be permitted to supervise undergraduate research projects (including MICROM 496) in Microbiology.   However, prior approval from the Department is required.  This is done through a petition form, which is available in Sarah Mears’ office.  On the form students provide a description of the topic, and the form is signed by the proposed faculty sponsor.  The form should be submitted to Sarah Mears and is reviewed by Dr. John Leigh. 

Departmental honors students:
Departmental honors students should register for MICROM 495 (Honors Undergraduate Research) as well as MICROM 496.  For these students credit for MICROM 495 will be given only upon submission and approval of the MICROM 496 paper (completion of the research project).  In this case, the format of the report should be similar to that used in writing up a research paper for publication (Abstract, Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, and Discussion).  Reports will be reviewed by one additional faculty member recommended by the faculty research mentor.  Both reviewers must concur that the student merits credit for both 495 and 496.

Students are encouraged to seek the advice and assistance of their faculty sponsor throughout the course.  Meet with or email your sponsor on a regular basis to discuss the topic material, review progress, and ensure successful and timely completion of your MICROM 496 report.  The initial meeting should take place no later than the first week of the quarter to discuss selection of topic and sponsor expectations.  Faculty sponsors are prepared to (1) assist students in defining the breadth and depth of a mutually agreed-upon topic, and (2) when possible direct the student to recent articles on the topic selected.  By the 3rd or 4th week of the quarter students are expected to submit a tentative outline of their paper, which the sponsor must approve.  Students must submit a draft of the paper by the 7th week of the quarter.  Faculty will return comments, which the students will incorporate into their final reports.

The final papers are due no later than the last day of class instruction of the quarter in which the student is registered.  Failure to inform your sponsor that this deadline will not be met could lead to a failing grade.

It is the responsibility of the student to search out current research articles, read them carefully, and organize the information into an orderly sequence in writing the report.  While review articles may be useful for background information, the MICROM 496 paper must be centered around research articles in scientific journals.  Students turning in papers that are judged to be a rephrasing of published articles, without appropriate citation, will be given a failing grade.

Suggested meetings with faculty sponsor:

      1st Meeting:           Review aims of the project and discuss topics that might serve as the basis of your report.  Set up a schedule of when you expect to have certain steps completed.  After this meeting, begin a detailed exploration of a topic and begin to review the literature.

      2nd Meeting:          Review progress on topic selection and status of your efforts to identify pertinent review articles and research publications.

      3rd Meeting:           Prior to this meeting, provide an outline of your paper to your faculty sponsor to review.  If outline is acceptable to sponsor (may require modifications) continue literature review and preparation of paper.

      4th Meeting:           Submit a draft of your paper prior to this meeting.  Discuss how to improve your paper for the final report.



MICROM 496 reports should be approximately 10-15 pages double spaced (length will depend on the scope of topic and number of research articles available and cited).

  1. In the first paragraph state concisely the topic and how you propose to evaluate it. This will be similar to the abstract, which usually precedes scientific articles (see example below). Continue your introduction in subsequent paragraphs with some historical perspective on the topic.
  2. Examples:
    "The Group B Streptococcus (GBS) has been firmly established in recent years as a major human pathogen, especially in neonates. There is a distinct need for rapid clinical tests that can aid in the diagnosis of these infections. The ability of GBS to demonstrate the CAMP reaction (first noted by Christie, Atkins, and Munch-Peterson) has been one characteristic that serves as a tool to assist in the presumptive identification of this important etiologic agent. This paper will describe the principles of the CAMP reaction, its chemical nature and mechanism, and other factors that may be influential to each component of the reaction. Secondarily, the many variations of this test that have been developed will be reviewed and compared."

  3. Break your information down into logical groupings (headings or subcategories) and develop each in turn, synthesizing all the bits of information from the various articles into a coherent form.

  4. Conclude the paper with a summary paragraph, which restates the original question(s) and highlights the results of the library research and your own synthesis of this information. Include any thoughts on the direction future research may take on this topic.

  5. Cite references in your paper by author name and year as in the following examples:
    "according to Holmes (1979) the hypothesis was incorrect"
    "the hypothesis was shown to be incorrect (Holmes, 1979)"
    "no distinct hemolysis was detected (Christie et. al., 1944)"

  6. Construct the bibliography alphabetically by author.





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