Skip to main content

From Microbes to Medicines

In this laboratory, you will get to explore the bacteria that live in your own backyard. You will gather soil, isolate the bacteria that live in your soil, and determine whether your bacteria can kill your lab partner’s bacteria! If you are lucky, you might even discover bacteria that make novel antibiotics!

Lab Introduction From Microbes to Medicines: A Bacterial Isolation Lab

Timing: 3 Days to 1 Month

Safety Precautions

  • Always make sure to wash your hands before and after you handle soil or your bacteria! While the majority of bacteria from soil are safe, there are some that can cause disease. Washing your hands with soap and water will protect you from them.
  • Be careful when using a hot water bath or hot-plate. It is possible to burn yourself. Additionally, if accidentally left unattended, they can be a fire risk.
  • Make sure to wear gloves whenever you handle your petri dishes. They contain the antifungal agent cycloheximide, which is toxic to humans. In addition to wearing gloves, always wash your hands after handling the petri dishes.

Material List

*Please Note - We do not have funding to provide materials that were provided to our pilot teachers, as mentioned in the videos.

  • Plastic sandwich bags and spoons (1 each per group/student)
  • 15 mL plastic conical tube (3 per group/student)
  • Small sieve
  • Petri dishes with agar and cycloheximide added (3.5 per student)
  • Q-tips
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Toothpicks
  • pH strips
  • Phone app for recording location/temperature 
  • Camera (or phone) for taking picture of site and plates
  • Graduated cylinder capable of measuring 10 mL
  • Pasteur pipettes with bulbs
  • Bottled water
  • Scale capable of measuring 0.25 g
  • Hot water bath or hot plate with large beaker of water capable of maintaining between 50-80 °C for 30 min
  • Sharpies
  • Fridge to store agar plates

Lab Procedure:

Timing: 1 Week (Up to 3 Weeks)

Collecting and preparing the soil sample


Battling Microbes

Timing: 2 Weeks


 This lab was created by the Parkinson Lab.

Purdue University College of Science, 150 N. University St, West Lafayette, IN 47907 • Phone: (765) 494-1729, Fax: (765) 494-1736

Student Advising Office: (765) 494-1771, Fax: (765) 496-3015 • Science IT, (765) 494-4488

© 2024 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | DOE Degree Scorecards

Trouble with this page? Accessibility issues? Please contact the College of Science.