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Pharmaceutical Discovery from Cyanobacteria - MEDCHEM 447

Searching for New Antibiotics in Northern Michigan Blue-Green Algae

Location: U-M Biological Station

Instructors: Pat Kociolek, Rex Lowe and David Sherman


This course exists in two forms: 1) an 8-week, 5-credit intensive study of freshwater algae that concludes with research focused on pharmaceutical discovery, and 2) a 2-week, 3-credit algae "boot camp" that rapidly moves to the pharmaceutical discovery segment.

Course dates and registration instructions below



Natural products have long been used as medicine. Cyanobacteria are particularly renowned for producing compounds with antibacterial, anticancer, and insecticidal properties.

In this combination field-lab research course, you will learn taxonomic identification of biologically relevant blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) and proper field collection techniques. You will then head to the lab with your samples for extraction and purification of natural products which you will test for therapeutic properties.

From discovery by organic extraction, fractionation, and column chromatography, to analysis via HPLC and mass spectrometry, you will learn first-hand how a natural compound becomes a therapeutic drug.


For 3 credits: Enroll in the Fall 2019 section of MEDCHEM 447.

This class spans the end of the summer half-term (August 2-17) and the Fall 2019 semester. Credits reflect both the 2-week field component at the Biological Station and semester-long research component in Ann Arbor.

For 5 credits: Enroll in the Summer 2019 half term through Wolverine Access. We encourage you to take a second, concurrent class at the Biological Station. You may do so using the 2019 UMBS Application  (available in late October, 2018). If you enroll in a second course, you are eligible for UMBS financial aid to help cover tuition. The financial aid dealine is March 31, 2019. The financial aid application is part of the 2019 UMBS Course application.

Regardless of which version of the class you take (3 or 5 cr.), you will live at the Biological Station for the duration of the 2-week field course. Your room and board for those two weeks are covered by UMBS Transforming Learning scholarships.

Combined instruction from the David Sherman's lab and the Biological Station's Freshwater Algae faculty make for an unparalleled research opportunity.