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Curricular Changes Are A-Comin’

by gwilson on Feb.15, 2015, under Program

Dr. Wilson 002There is a difference between “good” programs and “great” programs that is revealed by how they approach criticism.  Good programs may fight the news or dispute the news; great programs embrace the news and use it to their advantage.

BIMS is a great program.  Just 6 years ago, the Biology Department launched its three new B.S. programs – the brand new Biomedical Science (BIMS) degree, the brand new Life Sciences degree, and the revised Biology degree.  Each year since, we have participated in authentic and investigative annual assessment to identify our weaknesses and form strategies to make improvements.  Our willingness to find fault and criticize our own efforts led us to ask “How can we improve our performance for the sake of our students?”  Just over a year ago, the accumulation of evidence told us we needed a more extensive and universal Biology Core curriculum for all three majors.  And we needed to break down the barriers that prevented our BIMS majors from taking advanced BIOL courses, and vice versa.

We have just received approval for our new curriculum.  Here is a look at the BIMS of the future, starting Fall 2015:

Biology Core (courses taken by all BIOL, BIMS, and LSCI majors)

  • BIOL 1306/1106.  General Biology I/Gen Bio I Lab.  Molecules to cells.
  • BIOL 1307/1107.  General Biology II/Gen Biol II Lab.  Animals and plants to ecosystems and evolution.
  • BIOL 3460. Genetics
  • BIOL 3110.  Junior Seminar.  Immersion in scientific literature to prepare for senior capstones.  Career counseling and entrance exam preparation.  Participation in locally-produced diagnostic Junior Exams to help us assess effectiveness of our courses during their first two years.
  • Senior capstone experiences.  Can be either BIOL 4201/4101 Senior Capstone Experience/Scientific Literature (research with a faculty member, scientific writing to report results), BIOL 4388 Biology Internship (arranged internship with practitioners in science or health professions), or BIOL 4496/4397  Honors Research/Honors Thesis (for those pursuing the added distinction and expectations of Honors research and thesis).

BIMS Program Required Courses

  • BIMS 3350 Cell Biology.  Return of a course focused on eukaryotic cell anatomy and physiology.
  • BIMS 3410 Microbiology.
  • BIMS 3430 Human Physiology.
  • BIMS 4350/4150 Molecular Biology/Molecular Biology Lab.

BIMS Elective courses.

  • Ten hours of elective courses from advanced BIMS and BIOL course offerings.

The Biology and Life Sciences programs have also undergone some tweaks that promise to make them even more effective than their current versions.  We are excited about how these changes position us (and our students) for the future!

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2014 Was a Very Good Year!

by gwilson on Dec.29, 2014, under A Day in the Life...

nicole graduationAs we close out 2014, I thought it would be an appropriate time to look at the events from late in the year that demonstrate some of the accomplishments of the BIMS program.

1. Nicole McGunegle (middle left, with our Dean Alicia Wyatt and human biology professor Dr. Larry Sharp) became the sixth BIMS majors to complete Honors thesis research this year.  Her work was on heat resistance of wild type and genetically-modified spore-forming bacteria.  She was one of four Biology Department graduates in December, the others being Kelly Croci, Shayna Hoag, and Collin Valdez.  All four are pursuing advanced graduate or professional school programs (Medical School, Physician Assistant school, Optometry School, Nutrition and Dietetics graduate program).

2.  There was an official announcement that the Department of Biology was the recipient of a 160-acre tract of land in Callahan County that will serve as a field research station.  The donor is Bill Libby, long-time professor of history and religion and the founder of the Cross-Country program at McMurry.  The field station will be called Firebase Libby, in recognition of Bill’s time spent as a chaplain with the 101st Airborne in Viet Nam.  Every facet of McMurry’s biology and biomedical science programs has identified ways in which this valuable asset can be used for research and student projects.  More here:  http://blogs.mcm.edu/sncs/?p=1159.

3. On the research front, Dr. Tom Benoit received notification in December of the acceptance of an article written for the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education.  It details the use of diatomaceous earth in construction of Winogradsky columns for study of microbial ecology and mineral cycling in biological systems.  Three professors also received good news about funding for research during the Christmas break:  Dr. Anna Saghatelyan is partnering with Dr. Hyun-shun Shin of Chemistry on a project to identify new antimicrobials from area plants.  They will receive funding from the Sam Taylor Foundation.  This work includes the Honors Research of Kara Black, which was presented at the regional ACS conference this fall.  More here:  http://blogs.mcm.edu/sncs/?p=1150.  And Drs. Dana Lee and T.J. Boyle both were notified of their receipt of KIVA grants for next year, funding for research on the genomics of bats and the distribution of crabs in lakes of west Texas.

4. And most exciting has been the resurgence of the Biology Club and Tri-Beta, under the capable leadership of Drs. Boyle and Lee.  First came a very successful “Pie a Professor” fundraiser (http://blogs.mcm.edu/sncs/?p=1145) that provided the funding to begin an effort to greatly expand the recycling efforts on campus (http://blogs.mcm.edu/sncs/?p=1155).  This is only the beginning of growth and contribution to the campus and community from the Biology and Biomedical Science students at McMurry.

5.  Finally, as the year ends we find a new beginning on the horizon for the Department of Biology.  Extensive revisions to the BS Biology, BS Biomedical Science, and BS Life Sciences degrees are coming!  New courses and a roadmap for the program changes are in the final stages of approval, and incoming students for the Fall 2015 semester will benefit from the tweaks being made.  A common biology core of 16 hours, including a junior seminar course to explore careers and prepare for entrance exam tests for graduate and professional programs, will be taken by all students.  We expect great things to come from these data-driven improvements!

So, from all of us at McMurry, we hope 2014 was equally productive and gratifying.  And we hope all of us will experience an even better 2015!

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Nobel Week

by gwilson on Oct.08, 2014, under A Day in the Life..., Projects

nobelstudentsIn Contemporary Issues in Biomedical Science this semester, students are learning about the groundbreaking discoveries that will change the form and direction of health and medicine for years to come.  The students all have health professions in mind, and participation in this course should help inform them of breaking news in science just in time for their professional school admissions interviews.

This week the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded. John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser, and Edvard I. Moser are being honored for their work in discovering how the brain recognizes spatial location – a sort of “GPS” in the brain.  The announcement on Monday coincided with completion of a major assignment in the Contemporary Issues class.  Each student selected a Nobel Laureate from recent years and completed a research-style poster on their story, their work, and the ramifications of their discovery for the future of health and medicine.  From Sydney Brinner’s work with C. elegans to Elizabeth Blackburn’s studies of telomeres, from Stanley Prusiner’s discovery of prions to Fire and Mello’s transforming work on RNA gene silencing and Robert Edward’s opening the world of in vitro fertilization, all are showcased as defining discoveries with long-term impact.

These posters are being displayed in the Finch-Gray Science Center in time for this year’s McMurry Homecoming weekend.  Friends and alums will be able to see the emphasis we are placing on giving our BIMS students an education that is current and vital and geared as much toward “what will be” as it is in “what is past”.  We hope you will drop by for a look!

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