Project-Based Learning at IUGB – Biology 2: How Can I Safely Decrease Bacteria in My Food

The students of general biology at IUGB carried out research into how to decrease bacteria in food. This type of learning experience, called “Course-Based Research Experiences” (CUREs), are gaining popularity as a way to give students of all backgrounds an opportunity to carry out scientific research. Science is not as clean and simple as we imagine based on media reports. Participants quickly learn this as well as the systematic exploration of a hypothesis and data analysis, a valuable skill for any field. Further, the students were able to clearly see how different conditions or practices could help them prevent foodborne illness. At the end of the experiments, one section was able to conclude that potassium permanganate and bleach together did a much better job of decreasing bacteria on lettuce than bleach alone. As for raw meat marinated with a mixture of crushed onion and garlic, there was a tendency to reduce bacteria, but it was not statistically significant so they could not be confident these results would repeat. Regardless, both sections visualized just how many bacteria are on the foods that we eat and learned how to make better choices to stay healthy.