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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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What’s for Supper?

by gwilson on Nov.06, 2013, under Projects

DSCN4566Students in BIMS 4491 Food Microbiology are deep into a semester of eye-opening surprises.  Besides learning the significance of acronyms like HACCP, AOAC, USDA-APHIS, and the like, there has been a tourist’s journey through the microbes used for making foods and those responsible for spoilage.  Students have presented case studies on outbreaks of foodborne illnesses from botulism in canned hotdog chili sauce to shigellosis at an upscale hotel.  Around every corner there has been a new dimension of how vast the importance of food safety and how costly it is when problems arise.

The first major project for the class has been the production of foods using microbes.  From ginger ale to sauerkraut to chocolate, from sourdough bread to cheeses to wines, the class is assembling an impressive array of microbial products for human consumption.  A campus-wide reception and “tasting” is scheduled for Thanksgiving week, where a booklet of recipes (complete with a description of the microbes and processes responsible) will be available for our guests.

Today marks the launch of another project.  Our students will be headed to college student kitchens to do safety analysis and sampling.  Every student in the class had to obtain their food handler safety certification, so things they learned there about safe kitchens will be combined with things learned in class to analyze safety and the practices of college students in their home kitchens.  A kitchen user survey and kitchen layout schematic will help Food Micro identify critical points where cross contamination can occur or where safe practices are not being followed (raw meats stored above leftovers in the fridge?).  Contact plates of specialized media and swab sample retrieval kits will be used to test cutting boards, floors, countertops, refrigerator shelves, and a variety of other kitchen surfaces.  When combined, the results will provide a snapshot of the status of kitchen safety for the average college student.  When the data is analyzed, the class will undertake their final class project – writing a guide to safe kitchens for college students.  As with our other BIMS classes, we aim to put a practical and useful product together from our semester’s efforts.

There is nothing quite like exposing your students to the way their field is put into practice.  There is nothing quite as personal or practical to a student’s education as being the one using knowledge from a course to inform others on how to improve their personal safety.  In this way, BIMS 4491 Food Microbiology is demonstrating the great value of learning and applying what is learned for the benefit of others.

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