#FEMSmicroBlog: Microbial Pursuit - learning and revising while having fun!


The World Teachers’ Day, on 5 October, focuses on supporting teachers to develop their full potential in the classroom setting. This year’s World Teachers’ Day highlights the assistance teachers need to completely contribute to the recovery process of the current pandemic under the theme “Teachers at the heart of education recovery”. In this #FEMSmicroBlog, Dr Isabel Murillo shares her story of how using games in higher education helps her teach microbiology in an enjoyable environment. The game, called Microbial Pursuit, is an educational tool used to convert workshops into pedagogical and entertaining sessions. It also works as an effective unit revision tool. #MicrobiologyEvents


The difficult task of introducing games into higher education

I have always admired how primary and secondary school teachers interact with their students; they seem to have fun! However, as lecturers in Higher Education, I feel we are losing that capacity.

Everything becomes more serious and stressful. This disparity made me think about how I could introduce fun into my discipline, microbiology. At the same time, I wanted to deliver knowledge and provide time for material revision. Suddenly, it was clear to me: bring games back into the classroom!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any games at the university. This was when I decided to apply for funding and create my own game. I called it Microbial Pursuit.


playing material of the microbial pursuit game.
The Microbial Pursuit game. From Murillo (2021) in FEMS Microbiology Letters.

It took me some time to design the elements of the game: the board, the hardware and the rules, but I did it! All this was possible thanks to the enthusiasm and feedback from my students. I have used Microbial Pursuit for 3 years now and I am delighted that it has been very popular with them. After all, who doesn’t want to have fun in the classroom?

When designing the game, I did not only aim for student collaboration, interaction and socialising but also versatility and sustainability. I wanted to know how students could work in teams, interact and socialise while making the game and then play it. And of course, all of this in the context of my subject: microbiology.

I wanted to create a game that used a board, cards, dice and questions. For weeks and months, I researched and gathered information, designed the pieces and decided on the colours. Finally, I sent everything for printing and voila! Microbial Pursuit was born.


How you can use Microbial Pursuit to teach microbiology

What is this game about? Microbial Pursuit aims to help students revise a specific subject and provides time and space to interact with their peers. All this is meant to happen in the relaxing environment of playing a board game.

What should you do as a teacher? Start by planning two sessions of about an hour each, one or two weeks apart. Organise your students into groups of 5-6 students. Assign the taught material and ask each group to come up with around 15 questions and answers. Each question should be in a different style.

Before the second session, the questions and answers should be checked for accuracy before printing them. In the second session, the students play the game in groups. Students use the dice to move around the board and for each correct answer, they get a token. The winner is the first student or team with 6 tokens.

Both the collaboration and the competitive element make the game engaging and exciting for students. In an informal setting where students are not assessed, the fear of making mistakes disappears and the process of learning is enhanced.

I felt inspired by seeing so many students play and have fun in the classroom.  And I will tell you a secret…: the students didn’t seem to realise that they were actively revising!


About the author

Dr Isabel Murillo is a lecturer in microbiology at the University of Bristol. She has been a researcher for more than 25 years and now she focuses her efforts on education and pedagogy. Isabel is interested in developing fun ways to teach microbiology which in turn help educators to communicate their subject to students. She has also published two short stories for children, “Hello, Mrs E. coli!” (available soon in print) and “The little virus who got lost” (available online).

More educational resources for World Teachers Day:



About this blog section

The section #MicrobiologyEvents for the #FEMSmicroBlog reports about events and meetings relevant to our network. These include world awareness days, FEMS-sponsored meetings or meetings of Member Societies and many more.

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