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Environmental Sciences and Development




Say Hello To Microbiology

There is a vast world of organisms around you, they are just too small to be seen with the naked eye.  The field of microbiology study these miniscule life forms which may included bacteria, fungi, viruses, algae and protozoa.

Microbes can literally live anywhere.  They can be found in and on the human body, hot springs, the depths of the ocean, even inside nuclear reactors.  Through their ubiquitous distribution they literally affect every aspect of life on earth. 

Unfortunately most people only know microbes as harmful and undesirable, the causes of disease and discomfort, but as with anything in life there are two sides to every story.  Consider this:

  • Though it is true that some microbes can make you ill, they can also be the source of the antibiotics curing you.
  • While some organisms will cause food spoilage, others play a vitally important role in food production
  • Though microbe outbreaks in rivers and streams can render the water unusable, microbes play an important role in water treatment.

In short, harnessing the fantastical abilities of bacteria can bring us many benefits.

Microbes also play a vital role on a planetary scale.  Photosynthetic microbes form the base of many food chains when they fix carbon dioxide, and without this life as we know it on this planet will not be possible.  Microbes also fix atmospheric nitrogen, forming a vital link in many food chains.  On the other end microbes are also involved in the degradation and cycling of nutrients, releasing the components for reuse in ecosystems.

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The Scope of Microbiology

Microbiology is a subject with a wide range of areas of specialization.  For the most part it is a science based on the study of pure cultures.  However, many of the techniques used in the fields of molecular and cellular biology of higher organisms were developed by microbiologists.

Besides fundamental microbiology, molecular and cellular microbiology, there are fields such as bacteriology, virology, mycology, phycology and protozoology.  However these fields can be subdivided into application fields such as industrial, agricultural, medical and environmental.

In short the range of job opportunities are as broad as the field of microbiology itself.  Understanding microbes has never been as vital as it is now.

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Microbiology at the North-West University

The subject group of Microbiology is a part of the School of Environmental Sciences and Development, which includes the subject groups of Zoology, Botany, Geology, Geography and Urban and Regional planning.

The subject group teaches Microbiology at the second and third year level; topics covered in these subjects are taught by lecturers who actively research and publish in their specified field. Students satisfactorily completing their course may be offered placement in the M.Env.Sci. program.

There are 6 research laboratories, approximately 20 graduate students in the Department. Thus, it is large enough to provide a stimulating research environment but small enough to allow close interactions between the graduate students.

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Contact details

Subject Head: Prof. C.C. Bezuidenhout
Secreatary: Miss. Alba Terblanche

School of Environmental Sciences and Development
Potchefstroom Campus
North-West University
Private Bag X6001
Potchefstroom 2520

South Africa

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Courses offered

Microbiology Homepage
School Homepage
Microbiology staff

Morogo Research Programme

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