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STEM I for Middle School - SPARK

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Fatal Infections: How Scientists Combat Disease

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

Course Description

Medicine is losing the fight against emerging infectious diseases. The microorganisms that cause infections can out maneuver and genetically transform to combat our best medicines to date. In this course, students will learn the microbiology behind the most fatal "diseases" facing our world today, such as ebola, toxoplasmosis and mad cow disease. We will also explore deadly infections that afflicted our ancestors, such as the black plague and influenza. Finally, we will learn how antibiotics and vaccines are designed in order to defend humans against deadly drug-resistant diseases.

After gaining a firm understanding of the world’s most contagious pathogens, students will dive deeper into how scientists combat these microbes in the laboratory. Students will engage in a number of experiments, including growing their own cultures of bacteria and fungi. Students will have an opportunity to dissect key animal organs that are especially susceptible to certain types of infections. We will also examine our daily surroundings at the microscopic level to show the beauty and complexity of the microscopic world.

In addition to hands-on laboratory experiments, students will tour cutting-edge laboratory facilities that scientists use to observe these tiny invaders. Students will explore electron microscopes, which can see down to a single nanometer! (To give you context, a human hair is 100,000 nanometers thick.) Moreover, we will play with highly-sophisticated fluorescent labeling techniques and capture magnificent images of glowing nerve cells from genetically engineered mice using 1-photon microscopy.

Students will learn how past infections can develop into new diseases. Even after you feel cured, you still carry the risk of developing a secondary ailment that is even more dangerous than the infection! We will actively discuss how chickenpox becomes shingles, and how certain infections are connected to life-threatening cancers years after symptoms disappear.

A note to students: This course has been internationally recognized and will have previously run at the United States’ Federal Center for Disease Control (CDC).

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