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!
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.