It’s 9:44 on a Tuesday morning. I’m seated a few metres away from the board, right in the centre of the class. The clock ticks 9:45 and the class begins with an idiosyncratic introduction to Microbiology, with Prof. Ulrich. He starts by posing the question, ‘What does country music have to do with potatoes and microbiology?’ (Not the kind of question one would expect on the first day of class). A look around the class reveals that everyone is as curious as I am to hear what connection the professor would make between Irish music potatoes and microbiology. His answer begins with an explanation of the causes of the Great Famine in Ireland brought about by the late blight of the potato. Caused by the oomycete: Phytophthora infestans, the late blight of the potato had infected Irish farms between the 18th and 19th century. It was during this time that many Irish people immigrated to the USA, among other countries, taking with them their love for music and the Irish fiddle which had great influence over the origins of country music. So in short, the microbial infection that affected Irish potatoes subsequently led the Irish to immigrate to the USA and thus marked the genesis of country music.
Almost every class began with a real life example that related to the topic of the lecture. The plus side of having a small class size is that the lectures allow for discussion which Prof. Ullrich always encourages. As such, the atmosphere in the Microbiology class was simply engaging. And, that is why, Microbiology with Prof. Ulrich was my favourite course of the semester.