A Day in the Life...
It 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.
It is a common misconception that those who teach have a summer of rest and leisure. Anyone who has taught knows that is not close to true for many. Rather, summers are times for exploration and experimentation to update and improve courses. It is when new things have to be tried out before decisions on fall orders are made. It is a time when upgrades to the curriculum are made.
With that in mind, I want to report on some of the things we are looking forward to for the fall in the Biomedical Science program.
- Summer research. One thing that moves on during summers is research, something difficult to do along with other responsibilities during the school year. The photo accompanying this post is of Heather Rawls, the first Beasley Summer Research Scholar, who has been in the lab all summer working on her Honors research project. She is not alone, as Kendra Williams also worked on her Honors research involving molecular biology this summer and Bradley Rowland continued his research internship on nanoparticles and drug delivery at the TTU School of Pharmacy. Heather’s work, centered on germination of Bacillus thuringiensis spores, has given her greater insight into the frustrations and exhilaration that define research. They, and three other BIMS students, will participate in Honors research this fall and spring.
- Medical Terminology courses. I know this is not exactly new, but it is certainly fairly new. Dr. Sharp has worked out the kinks to providing online beginning and advanced courses in medical terminology.
- Online Microbiology. Drs. Wilson and Benoit spent sabbaticals last year developing online microbiology labs and lectures for allied health majors. Though the courses will not be available until 2014, much of the ground work is done and is being tested and finalized with classes this year. This initiative is in response to mandates in some states that all components of pre-nursing programs be delivered online for convenience and cost-savings. For a sneak-peak, visit www.micro-online-complete.com.
- Food Microbiology. Dr. Wilson is offering an advanced microbiology course this year over food microbiology. Students will make foods with microbes, test foods, preserve foods, and investigate means for creating safe kitchens. A guide to safe kitchen practices for college students will be the final product of the class.
- Pre-Health Professions preparation. Based on the success of our freshman-/sophomore-level Pre-Professional (PREP) seminar, we have decided to develop a follow-up course focusing on admissions test preparation, application completion, shadowing experiences, and additional interview preparation. Our goal is to improve MCAT, DAT, PCAT, GRE, etc. scores, to further polish application essays, and to build confidence in interview skills for our students. Armed with a new endowed fund for supporting PREP activities, additional enrichment activities such as trips to visit medical and other professional schools, and the like.
- Certificate in Pre-Health Professions Studies. One idea gaining strong interest is the creation of a co-curricular certificate for students who pursue courses and experiences outlined in a pre-health professions certification program. Early ideas on this include courses in medical ethics, mental health, wellness, and the usual prescribed courses for pre-health programs… sort of a body, mind, spirit approach preparing students for the profession of meeting healthcare needs of the next generation. More on this as we better define the program.
So, it is clear we have not been sitting on the beach this summer. Much is afoot for BIMS!
BIMS 1300 is a bit of an unusual course to start the BIMS major out on. The title is “Introduction to Scientific Research”, and yet we spend the majority of our time playing and designing games, with only limited time spent discussing the scientific method, the structure of a scientific paper, and the importance of ethical and moral behavior in the sciences. So it might come as a shock that one of the key features of the final exam is the analysis of a scientific paper taken from the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology.
All semester long, I have been telling the 33 students in the class (mostly freshmen) that our approach to learning how scientific research is conducted is taken from “The Karate Kid” – we do things seemingly unrelated to science to learn about science. So we played games to learn about variable and constants, how to use deductive reasoning to isolate variables in order to win the game. The mid-term exam included a simple Sudoku! We read excerpts from “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” to learn about observation and controlled experimental design. I give them an article called “Delusions of Gender” that is a great example of how inductive reasoning can go awry if taken beyond the limits of logic. We ran through examples of research misconduct and discussed the high costs of research and played “The Lab” at the NIH-ORI website.
And their final exam included evaluation of a scientific paper. They told me which paragraphs fit into each part of an IMRAD format paper. They evaluated logic used in the Results and Discussion section. They identified variables and constants in the table and figure. Then, on page two of the exam they looked at a flawed study, pointed out the mistakes and designed a better approach. And they explained how the games their groups created use these same methods and approaches and skills.
How did they do? As students in the course have done over the past four years, they were able to show me they “get it” about how we use the tools of science on a daily basis as we go about our decision-filled lives. And I am certain the experience of this class will help our students approach their sophomore classes, including organic chemistry, genetics, and human physiology from a more critical and thoughtful perspective.