American Society for Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE)

18-20 May, 2007 — University at Buffalo, SUNY


The theme of the 2007 ASMCUE meeting was Microbiology: Diversity of Life, Diversity in Learning, Connecting Disciplines, and it reflected the meeting's emphasis on linking microbiology with other biological disciplines and with ecology in particular. The three plenary lectures and several of the workshops and posters focused microbial ecology. One of the strengths of the conference was the high degree of interaction between attendees, many of whom commented that they attended the meeting to learn and share pedagogical practices to an extent not possible at their home institutions. In addition to structured discussions, the meeting schedule also provided many opportunities for informal discussions during receptions, meals, and unstructured periods of time. Nearly half of the 2007 attendees attended ASMCUE for the first time this year, and a scavenger hunt activity and First-Timers Breakfast on the first full day of the conference introduced them to leaders within the community.

Attendees were generally highly engaged in advancing pedagogy, and workshops emphasized participants learning from one another as much as from the workshop organizers. Participants in the microbial ecology workshop organized by Mary Edenborn and Hank Mulcahy generated many ideas and suggestions as a group. The workshop demonstrated a creative activity developed to teach a series of open-ended, inquiry-based microbial ecology labs. During the labs, students design and carry out an experiment using multiwell plates (EcoPlates) to compare the physiological diversity of different microbial communities. Session participants walked through an artificial version of the methods students use to determine the physiological profiles for different communities, and some faculty noted that the artificial setup could be useful as a practice session for students before they use the actual EcoPlates. It was clear that the activity could be adapted for different levels of difficulty and open-endedness, and attendees generated several ideas for hypotheses students could test in different types of courses and in different ecological contexts. Similarly, Sue Merkel's workshop on student-active teaching included brief group work (turn-to-your-neighbor) as well as a larger group discussion at the end of the session. During the larger discussion, less experienced faculty described specific challenges and obstacles they had experienced using active learning, and faculty with more experience were able to share tips and insights.

The remainder of this review highlights specific sessions and presentations that may be of particular interest to ecology educators because they either included an ecological component or were more broadly biological in subject. To read highlights from the entire meeting, visit the ASMCUE website.

Meeting highlights

Plenary Lectures


There were two types of concurrent workshop sessions. Two Learn Something New sessions lasted 45 minutes each and gave participants an overview of a specific topic. Three Try Something New sessions lasted 90 minutes each and gave participants an opportunity to participate in more hands-on activities.

Workshops: Learn Something New

Workshops: Try Something New