There 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!
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!