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!
One thing academic programs share with athletic programs is the need to establish and cultivate a pipeline of new talent into the system. One day our current students will graduate, and without new faces to take their place our programs would cease to exist. Like any team sport, being successful all boils down to numbers – recruiting great talent in quality and quantity. In the months to come, BIMS will once again make its pitch to bring in a large, talented class of bright and eager students intent on being academic superstars and thus prepare for their future careers in health professions and other fields.
One great recruiting opportunity for BIMS is in the McMurry University Honors Program. Around 30% of all Honors theses in the past few years have been written by students from one major – Biomedical Science. The other 45+ majors have contributed the rest. So, we eagerly anticipate Honors Days at McMurry. These events introduce prospective students to McMurry, our Honors program, and many Honors students. There are faculty interviews and an essay, all of which factor into awarding of very sizable merit-based scholarships. Honors Days this year will fall on November 14, November 21, and December 12, and we will be there to describe our program.
We are very excited about Science Saturday, which is coming on January 23, 2016. All prospective students with an interest in a science major will be invited to campus for the day, to hear about our programs, participate in hand-on activities related to our programs, and otherwise get a feel for the warm, welcoming environment to be found on campus. BIMS will contribute at least two activities to the morning: an epidemiology simulation/contest, and a DNA extraction and analysis activity. Students will be able to choose which sessions they can participate in, up to three during the morning session. Of course, ours will be the best.
So we hope you can make it to one of these events! If not, you can always schedule your own personal visit by calling 325-793-3800 and asking for Admissions. We look forward to getting to know you and your family and helping chart out your college career!
The start of the Fall Semester and the 2015-16 school year brings with it a new start in the biology programs at McMurry. New Biomedical Science majors join those from Biology and Life Sciences in taking the new Biology Core – common classes that insure a common experience covering the breadth of biology. This fall, the first new course is being taught – General Biology I – and its follow-up (ingeniously called General Biology II) will follow in the spring.
Lots of schools have a similar two-semester freshman biology sequence. Like many, ours is cells, processes and genetics in the first and multicellular organisms, diversity of life and ecology in the second. However, we hope that the lab for General Biology I will set our program apart from most. The lab, designed by Dr. Benoit, is based on a few “canned” labs interspersed among several multi-week projects covering key concepts and teaching skills central to future biology courses. There will be a project creating and studying Winogradsky columns that will emphasize metabolism and nutrient cycling and ecological succession. Another will use yeast to demonstrate carbon dioxide generation in fermentation and alginate beads to follow its consumption in photosynthesis. A third will require groups of students to design experiments with yeast to study fermentation changes with variations in substrates or environmental conditions. And mitosis and meiosis will be followed using yeast mating experiments. Not exactly an approach taken by most colleges for teaching first semester college students. Our intent is to give them an engaging course unlike anything taken before, one that teaches principles and how science is done and provides experience putting skills learned into action to provide answers to biological questions.
We should be posting stories from this course here and on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/McMurry-Biomedical-Science-Program-BIMS/118598184311) during the semester. Hope you will follow our journey!