Classifying and observing microorganisms

This topic provides the fundamental introduction to microorganisms and supports subsequent topics that focus on cell biology and microbiology.  Students need to develop an understanding of the basic structure of microorganisms, including those with cellular and non-cellular features. An understanding of scale and units of measurement is also required to appreciate the significant differences in size between cells and viruses or prions.

Once students have an understanding of scale, they need to understand the relative benefits and drawbacks of light microscopes and transmission & scanning electron microscopes. As that latter two types of microscope will not usually be encountered in school or college science, this creates a challenge for students being able to visualise and understand the principles behind their use.

Staining techniques and reagents such as Gram staining, Giemsa staining, haematoxylin and eosin are used to classify different types of microorganism and diagnose disease. Students need to develop an understanding of what these techniques involve and their practical application.

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