Fall SAVY 2016 (Day 1) – Pathogens and Protectors: The Science of the Immune System
This week, we kicked off our investigation of immunology! Our first brainstorming session on tools of problem solving revealed that this class already has a firm grasp of the scientific method, which we will employ extensively. However, they are less familiar with the design method, a similar process, but used by engineers to come up with solutions to defined problems. We will be practicing this method as well, especially in the second half of the course.
We then learned basics about viruses and bacteria and some of the key cells that comprise our bodies’ first line of defense. If you would like to see a neutrophil phagocytose a bacteria, you can find video evidence of this (taken at Vanderbilt in the 1950s) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_mXDvZQ6dU.
Our first experiment involved a cheek swab before and after using mouthwash. Students formed hypotheses about how/if they thought the number of pathogens (bacteria) on their cheeks would change after mouthwash use. We are giving those pathogens time to grow and will be collecting and analyzing data next week to evaluate these hypotheses.
Next week, we will delve into more specific components of the immune system and how each pathogen type is normally defeated. We will also perform an experiment to investigate pathogen transmission. This is a very engaged group of students and I am excited for them to become immunology experts!