Student-Directed Discovery of the Plant Microbiome and Its Products

Scott Strobelscott.strobel@yale.eduYale
Elizabeth Arnoldarnold@ag.arizona.eduThe University of Arizona

Project Location

Multidisciplinary undergraduate research program that can be implemented in full or in part

Student Audience

Introductory, Advanced, Major

Scientific Domain

  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry (Organic)
  • Ecology
  • Microbiology

Nature of the Research

  • Wet lab/bench research
  • Field research
  • Informatics/computational research
  • Basic research

Core Concepts

  • Systems: Living systems are interconnected and interacting.

Core Competencies

  • Applying the process of science
  • Using quantitative reasoning
  • Tapping into the interdisciplinary nature of science
  • Communicating and collaborating

Guiding Questions

  • What is the relationship between host plants (e.g. location or species) and the resident endophytes or the products they produce?
  • Do endophytes produce natural products of interest in a particular assay (antibiotics, products that induce growth of plants, etc.)?
  • What is the phylogenetic relationship between a student-isolated endophyte and other microbes?

Learning Objectives

  • Identify a biological question and frame it as a scientifically testable statement.
  • Identify and execute methods to answer the question.
  • Analyze and interpret the results obtained.
  • Communicate the results orally and in written form.


This project uses endophyte diversity as a platform for investigating ecological questions, microbial characterization, and isolation and characterization of natural products produced by these microbes. A version of this program has been implemented with high school students, undergraduates and medical students. The duration of the module has ranged from a few day workshop to a semester-long course followed by a summer of full time research. The course synthesizes lecture, field-work, and laboratory experiences and emphasizes the multidisciplinary nature of science. Projects can be tailored to meet the faculty expertise and financial resources at the implementing institution.


Bascom-Slack, C.A., Arnold, A.E., Strobel, S.A. (2012) Student-Directed Discovery of the Plant Microbiome and Its Products Science 338:485-486

Strobel, S.A and Strobel, G.A. (2007) Plant Endophytes as a Platform for Discovery-Based Undergraduate Science Education Nat. Chem. Biol. 3:356-359

Getting Started

Information available in the supplementary materials section of Science 338:485-486 (2012)

Member Contact

Strobel, Scott Yale
Arnold, Elizabeth The University of Arizona