The Biomedical Science program is blessed with some outstanding students! This year was no exception. From numerous All Academic Conference and Region athletes to others who simply excelled in their academic lives, we found this year to be filled with points of light to celebrate. That said, we had tough decisions as we selected our outstanding students for the Department of Biology. Though they come from all three Biology degrees (Biology, BIMS, and Life Science), our BIMS students were well represented.
So here are the recipients for the Department of Biology Academic Awards for 2016. (forgive me if I get Academy and Academic confused…)
Outstanding First Year Students: Bethany Everett and Haley Shepard
Outstanding Second Year Students: George Gutierrez and Kelsey McKiernan
Outstanding Juniors: Payden Dompe, Maddie Fatheree, Sophie Southwell
Outstanding Seniors: Ella Mackowiak, Taylor Russell, Rachel Thompson
We were also able to award numerous endowed merit-based scholarships to some of our more advanced students. This is not the totality of merit scholarships our students will receive, but represents some of the key scholarships we know about at this time:
The Dr. Richard D. Moore Scholarship. This award is in honor of Dr. Richard D. Moore, long-time Biology professor and pre-med advisor for the department. Winners: Payden Dompe and Maddie Fatheree.
The Bob Uselton-Ko Sari Scholarship. This award is in memory of graduate and Ko Sari member Bob Uselton. Winner: George Gutierrez.
The Dr. J. Danny Cooley Scholarship. This award is in memory of McMurry graduate and environmental microbiologist Danny Cooley. Winner: Sophie Southwell.
The Dr. Charles Bloomer Scholarship. This award honors alumnus and local oral surgeon and McMurry supporter Dr. Charles Bloomer. Winners: Dona L’Ne Kirkes and Rachel Thompson.
The Dr. Victor Hudman Scholarship. This award is in memory of alumnus and physician Dr. Victor Hudman, signifying three generations of the family preparing for careers in medicine through McMurry Biology. Winner: Kelsey McKiernan.
Any basketball lovers out there? If so, you probably are like me and have a love-hate relationship with the NCAA Division I basketball tournament – March Madness. It is a time when anything is possible, any team entering the field has that dream that if they can just string together 6 perfect games they can win a national championship. I was in love with March Madness back in the early 90s, when I chose three of the final four and ultimate champion Arkansas. Contrast that to this year, where two of the teams I pegged for the final four were eliminated in the first game. Like everyone, I try to predict the early upsets, and I actually hit on one – Arkansas-Little Rock defeating Purdue. I had to root for UALR because their coach, Chris Beard, as coach at McMurry not so many years ago.
I think there are some similarities between the highs and lows of March Madness and our BIMS program. Like selection Sunday, where there’s great anticipation about what teams will “go to the dance”, our recruiting season is a time of great anticipation as we await those who place their deposits, sign up for SOAR, and enroll as our majors each summer. And just like the tournament itself, there are those very talented students who stumble and those underdogs who achieve beyond anyone’s expectations. College, after all, is the greatest participation sport you can imagine.
So what are the similarities and differences that make some students succeed and others flame out? Just look at the Cinderella teams in the tournament. They tend to have great coaching, better than average talent, and lots of heart and determination. They are so focused on the tournament that they do not let any distractions or other interests get in their way. And they leave their entire effort out there on the floor. When our students commit every bit of their talent and effort to pursuing their education, they always come away winners.
1. Honors Research. We have several students in various stages of their Honors research. Some are in their infancy – like Payden Dompe’s work snooping down the origin of moles found in our area using genetic analysis of moles found elsewhere. There’s just something crazy about trying to extract DNA from the toes of moles from museum specimens around the country… Then there’s Sophie Southwell’s continuing quest for viral DNA from bat populations. Seems she will have to focus on harvesting bat guano from wild bats instead of using materials held in deep freeze for prolonged periods of time. Some people have all the fun! And then there’s Taylor Russell’s research comparing bacterial diversity found in Winogradsky with that of Benoit columns made using sediment from the same source (Benoit columns are made using diatomaceous earth as a replacement for soils and were invented at McMurry by Dr. Tom Benoit). Her test run of the methods yielded over 170 species from 112 genera, 56 families, and 32 orders. She’s awaiting her results from experiments run in the fall and will get her analysis done in the next few weeks. All this is to say that some interesting things are a-happening!
2. Recognition. McMurry was ranked #8 small college STEM program in the country in a recent review of programs by “bestdegreeprograms.org”. STEM programs include all academic programs related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We were the top rated small college STEM program in Texas (one of only two in the ranking of the top 30 schools). Biomedical Science is mentioned specifically as one of the premier programs. We like that kind of notoriety. Their description of McMurry’s programs starts this way: “McMurry University may not be the most well-known school in Texas, but it is undoubtedly one of the most respected.” The article goes on to cite our perennial ranking as a top school in our category by U.S. News & World Report, and a Top 100 ranking nationally by Washington Monthly. Not bad!
3. On the horizon. We are excited about the return of Environmental Science next fall. The program was hugely successful in its previous iteration at McMurry and promises to rise to that level again very quickly. We are also excited about a grant that is being written this spring and which could bring some tremendous changes to our programs and facilities as early as next fall. And it all starts with great students. We were very excited to participate in Science Saturday last month and this month’s Scholarship Day. It is always fun meeting with future students and their families and starting to build those relationships that will help each major reach higher than their grasp and shine brighter than they thought possible. As usual, a large share of those students in attendance want what BIMS has to offer.
So there you have the latest from the BIMS program at small college superstar McMurry. As much as the big universities would like to think otherwise, sometimes the best surprises come in small packages!