Acute illness: an illness with a rapid onset.

Aerobe: an organism capable of surviving and growing in an oxygenated environment, also called an aerobic organism. There are two types of aerobes: (1) obligate aerobes NEED oxygen grow, and (2) microaerophiles require oxygen to grow, but at micro amounts (less than what is normally found in the atmosphere). There is an additional group called aerotolerant anaerobes that don’t use oxygen but are not harmed by it. Examples of common aerobic bacteria include: Escherichia, Pseudomonas, and Bacillus. 

Anaerobe: an organism that does not require oxygen for growth, also called an anaerobic organism. Obligate anaerobes can actually be harmed by the presence of oxygen. Facultative anaerobes will use oxygen for energy if it is around, but they have other ways of surviving when oxygen is scarce. There is an additional group called aerotolerant anaerobes that don’t use oxygen but are not harmed by it. Examples of a common obligate anaerobe is Clostridium. 

Antibiotics: an antimicrobial drug used to treat and/or prevent bacterial infections.


Biofuel: refers to fuel that is produced through biological processes. There are three main types of biofuel: ethanol, biodiesel, and biojet fuel. Ethanol can be used in engines that burn gasoline, biodiesel can be used in engines that burn diesel, and biojet fuel can be used in planes. Biofuels are considered to be a renewable energy because they can be replenished as quickly as they are used. Fossil fuels on the other hand are not a renewable energy as they have a finite existence.

Biomass: mass of organic material. For example, you can have cellulose biomass.

Biomes: areas that include many ecosystems


Cellulose: an important structural components of plant cell walls. Cellulose is used to produce paper.

Chemotaxis: describes how cell move towards favourable chemicals (chemoattractants) and away from unfavourable chemicals (chemorepellants).

Enterococcus_faecalis_SEM_01Coccus: refers to the oval shape of a bacterium. Examples of coccus-shaped bacteria include Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Enterococcus. Pictured here is Enterococcus. 



Commensal bacteria: bacteria that are part of our normal flora and who help our body function normally.

Cooperative breeding: an extreme form of cooperation in which a relative will raise offspring while sacrificing their off reproduction.

C-reactive protein: a protein found in the blood measured to determine level of inflammation.

CRISPR: a defence system used by bacteria to fight off viruses with promising application in health and biotechnology.


dna_simple-svg.pngDeoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA): the hereditary material that is present in humans as well as almost all other organisms. Within the cell, DNA can be found in the nucleus, as well as in smaller abundances in the mitochondria. The genetic code that comprises DNA is made of four units called base pairs. These four base pairs are adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). The order of the base pairs is important in order to properly convey our genetic information (just as it is important that letters in a word are in the correct order). In humans, DNA consists of around 3 billion base pairs. When bound to a sugar and phosphate molecule, the base pairs form a double helix structure. DNA can replicate when needed such as when cells divide.


Ecosystem: communities of living things (animals, plants, and microorganisms) that not only interact amongst themselves, but also with the physical environment (sun, soil, climate, and atmosphere).

Enzyme: proteins that act as catalysts to stimulate complex reactions. Enzymes are very specific and only work with certain substrates. In general, enzymes function by following these four steps: (1) the enzyme and substrate are in the same area, (2) the enzyme interacts with the substrate at a particular site called an active site forming the enzyme/substrate complex (this is very specific), (3) catalysis occurs meaning that the substrate is changed somehow, and (4) the enzyme releases the product.

Eukaryote: cells that contain membrane-bound organelles. Examples of organisms with eukaryotic cells include humans, insects, and plants.


Fermentation: a chemical process which converts sugar into acids, gases, or alcohol.

Fitness: refers to the ability of an organism to reach reproductive age, find a mate, and produce offspring.


Gene: a unit of heredity made up of DNA. It is estimated that humans have between 20,000 to 25,000 genes. Humans, for instance, have two copies of each gene, one inherited from each parent.

Genetic code: the nucleotide triplets that correspond to a specific amino acid or stop codon.

Genome: refers to an organisms complete set of DNA, including all of its genes.

Genus: a unit of taxonomic rank that is above species and below family.

Gram-staining: a simple staining lab technique used to categorize bacteria into one of two groups: gram-positive or gram-negative. This technique works because gram-positive bacteria have more peptidoglycan (a molecule made of sugar and amino acids) in their cell wall in comparison to gram-negative bacteria. The first stain applied is called crystal violet. At this stage it is not possible to determine whether the bacterium is gram-positive or negative. The next solution is iodine which fixes the crystal violet to the cell wall. Then ethanol is used to remove the crystal violet dye from the bacteria. Gram-positive bacteria are able to retain the crystal violet during this step because their peptidoglycan layer is so thick, and thus they appear purple. Gram-negative bacteria have a thinner peptidoglycan layer and thus loose the purple colour during this step. Next, a different dye is applied called safranin. This dye will stain gram-negative bacteria causing them to appear red under a microscope. Examples of gram-negative bacteria include: Escherichia, Shigella, and Yersinia. Examples of gram-positive bacteria include: Streptococcus, Bacillus, and Lactobacillus. 


HeLa cell line: a type of immortal cell line derived from cervical cancer cells collected from a patient named Henrietta Lacks.

Hypothesis: an idea providing a tentative explanation for a phenomenon that will be re-evaluated after further experimental testing.


Immortalized cell: cells that have been manipulated to grow indefinitely.

Incubator: a device that can incubate cell cultures and microorganisms at a set temperature and carbon dioxide concentration.

Innate immune system: our bodies defence system that can be activated immediately upon infection by a pathogen. The system includes: physical barriers, like the skin and eye lashes, defence mechanisms, like mucous and sweat, and general immune responses, like inflammation.

Insulin: a hormone produced by the pancreas that manages blood sugar levels.





Macrophage: a type of immune cell in the body that engulfs invading pathogens and dead/dying cells.

Memory (immune): the ability of the immune system to remember pathogens it has seen previously therefore enabling the immune system to respond faster to re-infection.

Microcrystalline: a material formed of microscopic crystals.

1024px-Mitochondria.svg.pngMitochondria: an organelle within the cell commonly described as the “powerhouse of the cell” as it takes nutrients, breaks them down, and turns the nutrients into energy for the cell. Some cells have lots of mitochondria, such as muscle cells which need a lot of energy, and some cells have none.

Model Organism: a non-human species widely used in a laboratory setting to understand a particular biological phenomenon. Model organisms are easy to maintain, breed quickly, and provide certain experimental advantages. The results from experiments with model organisms hopefully provide insight into the same/ or similar biological process in other organisms.


Natural selection: refers to the mechanism that Charles Darwin proposed for evolution in which an organism that has beneficial traits allowing it to survive and reproduce will leave more offspring thus increasing the frequenting of the trait(s) in the population.

Neurons: a special type of cell that transmits nerve impulses in the nervous system.

Non-enzymatic proteins: refers to when proteins do not have catalytic function, instead acting to provide structure (e.g. collagen), transportation (e.g. hemoglobin), regulation (e.g. peptide hormones), movement (e.g. myosin), and immune defense (e.g. antibodies).

Nucleotide: the building blocks for nucleic acids.


Organelle: membrane bound compartments within a cell such as the nucleus, mitochondria, chloroplasts, golgi, and endoplasmic reticulum.


Pathogenic bacteria: bacteria that have the ability to cause disease.

Phylogeny: the evolutionary relationships among organisms (used for classification).

Primary cells: cells isolated directly from a source, such as a tissue.

Product: the end material in a reaction.

Prokaryote: cells that do not have a membrane-bound nucleus or other membrane-bound organelles. Prokaryotes can be divided into two categories: bacteria and archaea.



E coli Ag Res Mag Rod: refers to the rod-like shape of a bacterium. Sometimes this shape is also called bacillus. Examples of rod-shaped bacteria include: Escherichia, Vibrio, and Salmonella. Pictured here is Escherichia.


Single-celled organism: an organism that contains only one cell.



Spiral: refers to the serial shape of a bacterium. Examples of a serial-shaped bacterium include Campylobacter. Pictured here is Campylobacter. 


Substrate: the starting material in a reaction.

Superbug: a bacteria that is resistant to the antibiotics most commonly used today.

Synthetic biology:  a new area of research that employs advanced genetic techniques to make precisely-engineered viruses.


Thermophilic: organisms that thrive at relatively high temperatures between between 41 and 122 °C.



Vocal learning: the ability to listen and produce sounds.