In 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!
We are in the countdown stage of an important launch in McMurry Biology circles. Beginning Friday, September 5th, Biology will participate in a new initiative to build community among our science students: Science Fridays. Each Friday, students and faculty and friends will gather for lunch and community in the Finch-Gray Science Center. There will be club meetings (Tri-Beta, Chem Club, Society of Physics Students, AITP, Math Club), special events (field trips, Skype speakers, visiting alumni presentations, etc.), and plenty of fun – horseshoes or darts anyone? We’ll also have games like Pandemic and movies (our first movie will be Friday Sept 19 with Contagion). Oh, and departments are offering tutoring services to students!
This promises to be a wildly successful effort to bring our new freshmen into the McMurry science community, to connect our students with our faculty, and to improve spirit and understanding on campus. If things go as planned, the outcome will be more successful students, greater retention within the sciences, and an environment that will attract new science majors.
Our theme at McMurry this year is “Ubuntu” – I am because we are. Our community-building initiative builds on a successful start by Physics and Chemistry, and is expanded in audience and activities to reach more students, meet their needs, and move them toward a successful future. In a very tangible way, McMurry sciences are living ubuntu with our students.
- 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!