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End to a Successful Year

by gwilson on Jun.03, 2014, under Program

churchsunsetAs the 2013-2014 academic year comes to a close, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on some of the high points for our students and programs.

  • Food Microbiology.  Students investigated the safety of college students’ kitchens using standard sampling methods and identified a variety of microbes.  They held a Thanksgiving Week feast of foods made using microbes, and ended the semester by writing a pamphlet to provide college students with tips for having a safe kitchen.
  • Microbiology.  Students learned their lab techniques through two investigations conducted.  The first was isolation and identification of bacteria from meats:  hamburger, ground turkey, ground venizen, and the surfaces of chicken and dove breasts.  It was fascinating!  The second study was isolation and identification of bacteria from the toothbrushes of college students.
  • Microbial Diversity.  Students searched soil, plants, fresh and ocean waters for as many bacteria as they could isolate and identify.  At the conclusion of the semester, each student submitted 10 new strains to our stock collection, representing a wide diversity of bacterial shapes, groupings, and metabolic capabilities.  Their final project was a project to identify and design a plan to terraform a new planet using microbes.
  • Research Fellowships.  Three BIMS students received research fellowships to support their work:  two Bloomer Fellowships and the first Beasley Fellowship awarded.
  • Honors Students.  The BIMS program generated five of the nine McMurry Honors Program graduates this spring.  Another will graduate this summer.  Their theses, each of which is the equivalent of a masters thesis in length, quality, and expectations, cover topics such as bacterial spore size variations due to genetic modification and growth medium, spore germination properties of genetically modified and wild type strains, investigation of the possible disruptors of spore germination assays, isolation of new hydrocarbonoclastic (oil-eating) bacteria from railroad rail beds, and investigation of drug delivery methods on cancer treatment efficacy.
  • Assessment.  In our departmental assessment, the BIMS students have once again stood out for their abilities and achievement.  Scores on the ETS Major Fields Test in Biology demonstrated the quality of the courses they’ve taken to prepare our students for successful lives.  Scores placed our students above the mean for the 488 universities participating in categories emphasized by the BIMS program, and near the mean for the others.
  • Graduates.  We have seen BIMS graduates continue to excel in their placement in biotech jobs and graduate programs, and health professions schools (medical, PA, podiatry).  What is the likelihood a BIMS graduate will end up using their BIMS degree?  Something like 80% of all BIMS graduates from program inception are working in the field or pursuing graduate or advanced health professions degrees.

So, we have every reason to consider this an exceptionally good year for the BIMS program.  We are hard at work on improvements for the program and our campus culture for the fall semester.  Stay tuned for details!

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Goodbye to Lauren

by gwilson on Jan.21, 2014, under A Day in the Life..., Students

laurenbumpguatemalaIt has been a long time since the last BIMS page post back in November.  Part of the reason is the busyness of the end of the semester, the Holidays, and other diversions at the end of the year (after all, there ARE 35 bowl games!).  But a big part of the reason is the tragic and untimely death of someone very important to the early days of the BIMS program.  One of our first three BIMS graduates was Lauren Bump, the first recipient of the Danny Cooley Award for the outstanding BIMS student. After graduation in Fall 2010, Lauren was accepted into Physician Assistant programs and entered Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas to begin that journey.  She was home visiting her family in her beloved San Antonio when she lost her life on New Years Eve at the hands of an attacker in a park near her home.

Lauren was gentle and kind and encouraging and joyful.  She loved science and medicine and she loved Jesus.  The kind of young lady you’d love to have as a daughter or daughter-in-law.  No vanity, no arrogance, no conceit, no jealousy.  There are too few people like her in this world, and losing one of them affected people who knew her (and many who didn’t) in profound ways.  I found out of her death from one of her McMurry classmates on New Year’s Day, and like so many others in Abilene and San Antonio and Arkansas felt an emptiness and sadness that I still carry around.  You see, at small Christian colleges like McMurry and Harding, we don’t just teach students but we invest in them.  We give generously to them everything we’ve learned for the purpose of growing them as young men and women and future scientists and healthcare providers so that they may one day do far greater things for this world than we have.  And when one in whom we’ve lovingly placed so much of ourselves and our experiences and in whom we find so much hope is taken from us, our sense of loss is great.  But in the midst of loss, there is victory for Lauren as she sees her Savior face to face.

Her funeral was attended by over 1,200 and 300 gave their lives to that same Savior, having seen in her life lived for Him the very things missing in their own.  Even in the midst of her death, The Redeemer brought new life to others. A life of love and service and faith is never wasted, and so it was with Lauren’s.  In my church on Sunday we were shown a video that portrayed the truth that our lives touch those of many others we will never know – a sort of “It’s a Wonderful Life” truth beyond our understanding.  I was reminded of Lauren and reassured that her life of love and service and faith was not wasted – countless others have (and will be) impacted by the life she lived.

So, how do we move forward?  Many initiatives have begun in Lauren’s memory – fundraising for a variety of things near to the hearts of Lauren and her family.  At McMurry, Lauren’s club sisters in Gamma Sigma have begun planning for a fitting tribute, one that is not just a memorial with a name but a living memorial that seeks to perpetuate her beautiful spirit so that those who could never know her will learn what it means and what it gains when one seeks to “#livelikelauren”.  The Biology Department has begun discussions of how we might honor future students whose commitment to a life of healing, hope, faith, and service carries on the legacy of this beautiful child of God.  We give thanks for having known her and shared life together during her time in Abilene.  Bye, Lauren, until we meet again.

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Making Foods with Microbes

by gwilson on Nov.25, 2013, under Projects

DSCN4598 Students in BIMS 4491 Food Microbiology got to show off their mad skills and knowledge in a food tasting event held on campus this morning.  During the semester, students have learned about foodborne illnesses and food safety, food spoilage and food production using microbes.  Everyone earned their food handling certificate and did safety sampling of college student kitchens.  Today marked the end of their first major project – production of foods using microbes.  Each student was charged with producing two different foods (that could not be the products of the same microbe).  Our end result was a menu of chocolates and cheeses, pickles and sauerkraut and kimchi, wines and mead and ginger ale, and much more.  The campus community was invited, a television news camera crew arrived, students explained the lengths they went through to make safe, tasty foods.  By all accounts, the event was a hit and impressed everyone who attended.

If learning isn’t fun, something’s wrong.  If what goes in your head doesn’t apply to life around you something’s wrong.  This project attacked both of those head-on to give our students fun, applicable knowledge and skills.

Next up for these students?  Creating a guide entitled “Guide to Safety in the Kitchen for College Students”.  More on that later!

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