Allistair Mallillin views some of the microbial colonies he has cultivated for research.
  • Allistair Mallillin views some of the microbial colonies he has cultivated for research.

Microbe Discovery Project

Although many organisms on Earth have been identified and studied by scientists, a vast number of the smaller living organisms on Earth remain unknown. The Microbe Discovery Project gives students the opportunity to understand the thrill of scientific discovery by allowing them to search for previously undiscovered microbes. Students and teachers who participate in this project will learn and apply microbiological techniques to sample their environment for microbes, grow the microbes into colonies and select a colony for analysis. After a colony has been selected for analysis, students will isolate the DNA and send it away to a laboratory to determine the “root sequence” of the organism. This sequence, found in all living things, can be used to place the organism on the tree of life. Based on this information, students will decide whether they would like to have their organism sequenced, or choose a different organism from a different plate. In a unique educational partnership with Illumina, select bacterial samples may be fully sequenced.

After obtaining the complete genomic information for the bacteria, the second step is to compare the sequence with all known sequences to see whether the microbe has not previously been studied. Computer Science teachers and students will learn the basics of searching GenBank, the database of all known sequences, using the BLAST interface. After becoming familiar with this browser, students will be challenged to use their computer programming knowledge to program their own browsers for the database.

2008-2009

In October of 2008, thirty five Somerville High School Students in Chris Angelli's two biotechnology courses collected soil samples from different parts of Somerville. Each student diluted some of the soil in water and plated the sample on an agar plate. After re-plating once, students selected one colony, grew it in liquid culture overnight, and harvested DNA from the sample. Seven samples were selected and sent away to be sequenced by Illumina. Once the sequences are returned, the classes will learn more about assembling the seq

    Allistair Mallillin views some of the microbial colonies he has cultivated for research.
  • Allistair Mallillin views some of the microbial colonies he has cultivated for research.