Dr. Thomas G. Benoit
Associate Professor of Biology
McMurry University
 

Research Interests

Research at Small Colleges
     The role and value of research varies with the institution.  The purpose for conducting research at a PhD granting institution is much different than is the purpose at a liberal arts university.  In the former case, research is used to attract and train graduate students, to help fund the department, to bolster the university's reputation, to satisfy the investigator's curiosity, and to enhance his standing in the field.  In the latter case, research is useful for teaching the principles of scientific investigation, for giving the students real experience with asking manageable questions of nature and coaxing answers from her, and for providing the faculty member with a reasonable means of satisfying his own curiosity as well.
     
Students in Research
     Some students benefit greatly from prolonged, close work with a professor on a research project.  Careful, individualized mentoring generally is most possible in a teaching environment, where a faculty member has fewer students and less at stake in the outcome of a project than at a research university.  I have seen several examples of undergraduates doing "research" in major research labs; they rarely saw their professors and usually were just assigned routine support tasks for the graduate students and post-docs.  It is doubtful whether they learned very much.  At a teaching university, however, the professor and undergraduate student can busy themselves more with the process of discovery.  A seemingly simple thing like learning how to design and carry out a controlled experiment can greatly improve a student's understanding of how the validity of conclusions depends upon the quality of the data, and how the quality of the data in turn is subjet to the limitations of the methods.  This understanding is at the center of experimental science and often is best learned slowly and sometimes falteringly, without too much being at stake for the student or the professor.

My Projects
         My research interests include a large number of potential projects which can be completed by one or two undergraduates, with luck and hard work, within a year.  In three instances in the past five years, these projects have resulted in publication in refereed journals.  I think it is important to give undergraduates meaningful projects -- that is, ones which don't simply reinvent the wheel.  In that way the students are engaged on the edge of knowledge, which adds excitement, challenge and the potential of publishing in a respectable journal to the project.  I have well-established projects which deal with Bacillus thuringiensis spores and hydrocarbonclastic bacteria from a unique oil seepage site.  A dozen or so undergraduate students have been involved in these projects.  Additionally, I have recently been involved in study of the ecological connection between phytopathogenic bacteria and Tardigrada, again with involvement of undergraduate students.  Most of these students involved in meaningful research have come away with a better understanding of the scientific process and improved laboratory skills.

Research Experience

The University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Dallas, 1980.  Lab technician in Ischemic Heart Center.

The University of Texas at Austin, 1981.  Lab technician in Department of Pharmacy.

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, 1986-1987.  Research Associate in Internal Medicine.

United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, 1988-1990.  Post-doctoral Research Microbiologist.

Grants Received

General Shelters of Texas, Co-Principal Investigator:  $1,500
Amoco Oil Co., Equipment Acquisition:  $150,000
Texas Legislature, Special Item Appropriation:  $695,000.
Faculty Research Grant (SFASU): $6,983.

Consulting

Government:  City of Nacogdoches, TX; City of Deer Park, TX; City of Lovelady, TX; City of Arlington, TX; City of Stauton, VA; Neches River Authority, TX.

Industry:  International Paper; Green Acre Foods; Temple-Inland; West Texas Utilities; Sid Richardson Gasoline Co.; Melton Technologies, Inc.

Publications

1.Benoit, T.G., R.A. Marx, and J.

2.Krantz, S.L., C.W. Beasley, and T.G. Benoit. In Press.  Phytopathogenic bacteria associated with Tardigrada. Zoologischer Anzeiger.

3.Ferguson, D., III, S. L. Beekman, and T.G. Benoit.  1997.  Petroleum-utilizing Bacillus spp. from soil at Oil Springs, Texas. Texas Journal of Science 49: 73-76.

4.Benoit, T.G., and R.G. Wiggers.  1995.  Hydrocarbon degrading bacteria at Oil Springs, Texas.  Texas Journal of Science 47: 106-116.

5.Benoit, T.G., K.A. Newnam, and G.R. Wilson. 1995.  Correlation between alkaline-activation of Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki spores and crystal production.  Current Microbiology 31: 301-303.

6.Wilson, G.R., and T.G. Benoit. 1993.  Alkaline pH activates Bacillus thuringiensis spores. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology 62: 87-89.

7.Ziprin, R.L., M.H. Ellisalde, A. Hinton, R.C. Beier, G.E. Spates, D.E. Corrier, T.G. Benoit, and J.R. DeLoach. 1991.  Colonization control of lactose-fermenting Salmonella typhimurium in young broiler chickens by use of dietary lactose.  American Journal of Veterinary Research 52: 833-837.

8.Wilson, G.R., and T.G. Benoit.  1990.  Activation and germination of Bacillus thuringiensis spores in Manduca sexta larval gut fluid. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology 56: 233-236.

9.Benoit, T.G., G.R. Wilson, D.L. Bull, and A.I. Aronson. 1990.  Plasmid-associated sensitivity of Bacillus thuringiensis to UV light. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 56: 2282-2286.

10.Benoit, T.G., G.R. Wilson, and C.L. Baugh.  1990.  Fermentation during growth and sporulation of Bacillus thuringiensis. Letters in Applied Microbiology 10: 15-18.

11.Benoit, T.G., G.R. Wilson, N. Pryor, and D.L. Bull.  1990. Isolation and pathogenicity of Serratia marcescens from houseflies infected with Entomophthora muscae.  Journal of Invertebrate Pathology 55: 142-144.

12.Strickland, D.M., R.G. Leonard, S. Stavchansky, and T.G. Benoit. 1983. Vaginal absorption of hexachlorophene during labor. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 1147: 769-772.

Papers Presented

Twelve papers presented at regional and national conferences.