A Day in the Life...
May brings finals, graduation, and a lull in campus activity. However, summer is anything but a quiet time in the Department of Biology. Here are some of the things happening as we hit the mid-point of summer vacation.
1. SOAR registration. It has been a very good summer for the BIMS program as we look at the number and quality of new students being added to our program. Freshmen are being added as they register during the Summer Orientation and Registration (SOAR) activities. Students from large cities and small towns are choosing to call McMurry their college home. Among them are young men and women interested in a variety of medical fields, forensic science, and biomedical research. Another SOAR is coming up at the end of the month, and the capacity has already been expanded to allow us to handle the growing interest being shown for McMurry’s science programs.
2. Faculty news. Dr. Tom Benoit had an article published in the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education on a new formulation for creating Winogradsky columns (the “pets” our BIOL 1301 Unicellular Biology students regularly make). This new approach has been adopted by teaching and research labs around the nation. Dr. Dana Lee has a new research article in the Journal of Mammalogy. Dr. Lee used molecular techniques to study the genomics of bats from a number of small colonies scattered among the Ozark Mountains of Oklahoma and Arkansas to determine the connectedness between the populations. This summer, her husband was awarded his PhD from Oklahoma State University, meaning there are two PhDs in the home. A third publication from our faculty is also coming. Dr. Anna will have an article in this fall’s Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. It explores the geographical distribution and history of plants from southwest Texas. Drs. Boyle and Brant have been working to get our new biological research station (Firebase Libby) ready for our students and courses.
3. Student news. Kara Black, recent graduate, has received an invitation to join the incoming class at the UNT-HSC Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Ft. Worth. This was her chosen program. Three BIMS majors are working in research with the Department of Chemistry this summer. They are being paid through the Welch Foundation Departmental Grant. Greg Aiken, Dialfin Hammond, and Genna Hart are all working with Chemistry faculty on ongoing research projects. Also, Sophie Southwell is this summer’s Beasley Research Fellowship recipient. She is working with Dr. Lee on an interesting project using molecular tools to study the prevalence of coronaviruses in bats.
4. New programs. We are ready to go on our new biology degree programs. BS Biology, BS Biomedical Science, and BS Life Sciences all are new for 2015. You can see the details by visiting Biology’s new and improved webpage.
Enjoy your summer and looking forward to seeing everyone in lat August!
This year, science programs at McMurry have made a concerted effort to enhance the science community of our students and faculty through Friday afternoon activities. We call these events Science Fridays. Typically, science program clubs meet over the noon hour, and then we have something planned. Sometimes it is tutoring, sometimes it is a field trip or a guest speaker, sometimes it is a service project, sometimes a special guest (photo at left is of Jonathan Urbanczyk, 2011 graduate who is in medical school and came to campus last month to talk to our students). In all of these things, we hope that our science students and faculty cultivate deeper friendships and get comfortable living in the world of science. Though many of the activities are arranged for all science students, we find that often different audiences have different plans. For instance, the Physics and Math folks have planned activities more in line with their students’ interests.
Just announced is the schedule for the rest of the semester for those with an inclination toward biology, healthcare, and chemistry.
- March 20. Texas Tech’s Biotechnology Program is coming to McMurry to speak about their new local Biotech program at the TTU School of Pharmacy-Abilene and to recruit students for their summer internship program.
- March 27. The US Army will bring healthcare professionals to campus for a suture clinic. Students will learn how to stitch-em-up in a hands on activity. Reservations are required.
- April 3. Good Friday, no school.
- April 10. TTU School of Pharmacy will be hosting our students in their drug compounding clean room to teach them how drugs are formulated and compounded. Reservations are required.
- April 17. Metroplex Genetic Counselor Jenny Howell will be on campus to give an address and answer questions about what genetic counselors do.
- April 24, last Friday of the semester. TTU School of Public Health-Abilene will conduct an epidemiology simulation for our students. Students will assume various roles in a study to find the source of an outbreak and develop strategies to prevent its spread. Reservations are required.
I think it is safe to say the added benefits of coming to a small university like McMurry includes events like these where our students get exceptional enrichment opportunities!
1. Nicole McGunegle (middle left, with our Dean Alicia Wyatt and human biology professor Dr. Larry Sharp) became the sixth BIMS majors to complete Honors thesis research this year. Her work was on heat resistance of wild type and genetically-modified spore-forming bacteria. She was one of four Biology Department graduates in December, the others being Kelly Croci, Shayna Hoag, and Collin Valdez. All four are pursuing advanced graduate or professional school programs (Medical School, Physician Assistant school, Optometry School, Nutrition and Dietetics graduate program).
2. There was an official announcement that the Department of Biology was the recipient of a 160-acre tract of land in Callahan County that will serve as a field research station. The donor is Bill Libby, long-time professor of history and religion and the founder of the Cross-Country program at McMurry. The field station will be called Firebase Libby, in recognition of Bill’s time spent as a chaplain with the 101st Airborne in Viet Nam. Every facet of McMurry’s biology and biomedical science programs has identified ways in which this valuable asset can be used for research and student projects. More here: http://blogs.mcm.edu/sncs/?p=1159.
3. On the research front, Dr. Tom Benoit received notification in December of the acceptance of an article written for the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education. It details the use of diatomaceous earth in construction of Winogradsky columns for study of microbial ecology and mineral cycling in biological systems. Three professors also received good news about funding for research during the Christmas break: Dr. Anna Saghatelyan is partnering with Dr. Hyun-shun Shin of Chemistry on a project to identify new antimicrobials from area plants. They will receive funding from the Sam Taylor Foundation. This work includes the Honors Research of Kara Black, which was presented at the regional ACS conference this fall. More here: http://blogs.mcm.edu/sncs/?p=1150. And Drs. Dana Lee and T.J. Boyle both were notified of their receipt of KIVA grants for next year, funding for research on the genomics of bats and the distribution of crabs in lakes of west Texas.
4. And most exciting has been the resurgence of the Biology Club and Tri-Beta, under the capable leadership of Drs. Boyle and Lee. First came a very successful “Pie a Professor” fundraiser (http://blogs.mcm.edu/sncs/?p=1145) that provided the funding to begin an effort to greatly expand the recycling efforts on campus (http://blogs.mcm.edu/sncs/?p=1155). This is only the beginning of growth and contribution to the campus and community from the Biology and Biomedical Science students at McMurry.
5. Finally, as the year ends we find a new beginning on the horizon for the Department of Biology. Extensive revisions to the BS Biology, BS Biomedical Science, and BS Life Sciences degrees are coming! New courses and a roadmap for the program changes are in the final stages of approval, and incoming students for the Fall 2015 semester will benefit from the tweaks being made. A common biology core of 16 hours, including a junior seminar course to explore careers and prepare for entrance exam tests for graduate and professional programs, will be taken by all students. We expect great things to come from these data-driven improvements!
So, from all of us at McMurry, we hope 2014 was equally productive and gratifying. And we hope all of us will experience an even better 2015!