From Fish Food to miCROfluidics: The Amazing wORLD OF MICROORGAINISMS 

Prerequisites: None. 

Load: 1 - 4 P.M. on Jan. 9 - 13 (Daily 3-hour sessions over 1 week).

Time Outside Class: None Required

Special Instructions: Bring a notebook and a pen to class.

Sign-ups/Questions: MIT students who wish to sign up or learn more about the course should contact Dr. Thomas Consi at

Location: 5-007 (basement of building 5)

Pond scum is a derogatory term derived from the notion that green slime on the surface of stagnant water is something disgusting - nothing could be further from the truth! Pond scum is in fact a Lilliputian world inhabited an array of amazing creatures such as: protozoa, algae, rotifers, copepods and many others. This course is about these creatures: who they are, how they work, and the challenges they face living in micro-scale fluid environments.  Topics covered:

  1. The Light MicroscopeIts design and operation.  Micro-imaging and video techniques.
  2. The Micro-Environment:  At tiny scales fluid flow is reversible, swimming creatures can stop instantly without gliding to a halt, and drag is not affected by shape.  You will learn the basic physics of fluid and flow at micro-scales and how microorganisms are adapted to live in this strange, counterintuitive world.
  3. Diversity of Microorganisms: You will observe and learn to identify a diverse range of microorganisms. For example, there are single-celled creatures that: row with thousands of tiny hairs, that corkscrew through water, and there are those that simply flow in whatever direction they please. There are also many microscopic multicellular creatures that look like tiny complex transparent machines.
  4. Measuring Microorganisms:  You will measure the size and speed of microorganisms and estimate the forces they exert to crawl or swim.  You will perform experiments to see how they create flow fields for movement, sensing and feeding.  You will observe their behaviors and speculate on their “cognitive” abilities.
  5. Bio-Inspired Micro-Robots:  At the end of the class you will be challenged to design an aquatic micro-robot inspired our exploration of live microorganisms.