Biology students scrutinize parasites up close
(June 28, 2013)
Biology students enrolled in the summer section of Parasitology at UNC Asheville will spend a little less time outside barefoot, now that they’ve seen what they might catch.
“I wasn’t aware of how many different parasites there are, particularly how many human ones there are and how many we are exposed to every day,” said senior Kristin Emery. “Some of us are a little paranoid now, with a list of things to think twice about before doing – water parks, going anywhere, leaving the building.”
The class spends four hours each morning in a Zeis Hall lab, under the instruction of Professor Emeritus Michael Stuart. They examine magnified specimens, drawing each one in their notebooks, to varying degrees of detail.
Drawing from Experience
“Look at these tick drawings,” said senior Alex Gates of her early work in class. “These are beautiful and could be the high point of my career as an artist, but then we get to the whipworms later on the list of more than 50 parasites, and they are pretty terrible, in more ways than one.”
The goal of the four-week course is to learn about the life cycles of parasites and to understand how they infect and impact humans, animals and society. In addition to lab work, the class is tested on approximately 10 chapters of material a week.
“I spend a lot of time outside, so I figured this class would be helpful,” said senior Clay Chandler. “Dr. Stuart doesn’t just explain the things that will kill you and eat you from the inside out. He also goes into the ecology and how parasites affect domestic livestock and wildlife, as well as how the plague shaped law systems. I plan to travel a lot, so it’s good to know this history, and hopefully this class will keep me parasite free.”
Preserving their Knowledge
Whether they travel across the world or just across the Quad (with shoes on, of course), the students now know how to identify parasites under the microscope and by the resulting symptoms. They’ll use this wisdom to secure jobs in medical fields, add to their applications for graduate school and in some cases, impress their students.
Seniors Alex Berry and Tommy Houmard both aspire to teach science at the high school level. Armed with a biology degree and teaching licensure from UNC Asheville, they plan to keep the squeamish stories from the parasitology lab alive – their own form of preserving the specimens.
“It’s nice to have really interesting and weird things to include in classroom lectures,” said Berry.
For more information on biology courses at UNC Asheville, visit http://biology.unca.edu/.