Dr. Thomas G. Benoit
Associate Professor of Biology
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
12.Strickland, D.M., R.G. Leonard, S. Stavchansky, and T.G. Benoit.
1983. Vaginal absorption of hexachlorophene during labor.
of Obstetrics and Gynecology 1147: 769-772.
Twelve papers presented at regional and national conferences.