A Day in the Life...
For years, the BIMS program and Biology Department have featured an emphasis on st udent research. Some of our courses feature open-ended investigations as a regular part of the lab experience. All of our students must either participate in a senior capstone project, do Honors research, or complete an internship. However, we’ve come to believe the lab projects and senior experiences provide too abbreviated an exposure and too little opportunity to participate in long-term involvement in honing research skills (intellectual and experiential). So we are starting a new initiative that should change things up a bit!
This spring, two faculty will begin an experiment called Research Teams. In essence, the approach used in graduate programs to build a team of researchers working together on a common project is going to be instituted at McMurry using undergraduate students. Each research team enroll students into a research program headed by the faculty member to participate in long-term research. Our two pioneers are Dr. T.J. Boyle, whose RT will study invasive crab species in the lakes and rivers of west Texas. The other is Dr. Malaney O’Connell, whose RT will do research on connective tissue and breast cancer using tissue culture of cancer cell lines. Both will select five or so students from those applying to participate, and work will begin in the spring semester. Students will receive academic credit each semester they participate, with the level of their responsibilities and depth of their involvement increasing with each subsequent semester. Students involved will come from all classifications, so it is a way that freshmen can test the waters to see what environmental or medical research is really like. Research experience such as they receive is a great advantage for a student pursuing graduate or professional education following their years at McMurry.
Expectations are that the number and diversity of Research Teams should grow in Biology and beyond to other departments as we demonstrate this as a way to enrich student experiences in the sciences and to increase/expand the involvement of faculty in ongoing research. Everyone wins!
Students in research… Students Payden Dompe and Ella Mackowiak are spending the summer working in research with Dr. Dana Lee doing molecular biology/genomics on moles from around the nation. Dr. Joel Brant captured some of the pests at Firebase Libby (our department’s field station in Callahan County) which are the westernmost moles in our part of the country. The two students are isolating DNA from museum specimens to compare with DNA from our moles to see if patterns of migration can be determined that could give us an idea of the source for these moles. May not sound like a medically relevant project to our future doctors, but the methods used in the study are the same as those used in medical research.
New Freshman Seminar… Starting this fall, a new Foundations of Excellence (FOE) Freshman Seminar is being added to the requirements for all freshmen. The course incorporates 17 different approaches to the consideration of important questions for incoming freshmen, with one major topic central to each of the 17 sections being offered. During SOAR, it was really interesting to see what our incoming BIMS students chose as their options for this course. Our expectations are that FOE will help improve student success and persistence at McMurry. Both are good things!
Year Two of the New BIMS and other Programs… You may recall that Biology rolled out new and improved programs for Biology, BIMS, and Life Science last year. This year we are also adding Environmental Science. Because these are young programs, we will for the first time teach some of the new courses for these programs during our Fall Semester. For example, BIMS now requires a Cell Biology course (separated from Molecular and Cell Biology). This will be taught this fall by Dr. Malaney Lopez-O’Connell. We also are replacing the Junior Exam with a new Junior Seminar, now taken by all students. Expect this course to give our majors a jump start into their senior years.
Grants, Grants, Grants!… We are in various phases of grantwriting for things as diverse as updating Firebase Libby to obtaining a scanning electron microscope to creating an incredibly modern freshman lab sequence for top students to transforming our approach to engaging freshmen and transfer students and fostering success in the classroom and in researsch. Our goal is to become the best, most forward thinking program in our area, to build knowledge and skills and a sense of wonder and discovery in every graduate. These grants will help move the needle to make that happen.
I’ll be back in touch with more news as the summer rolls along. Stay cool!
Bryce Stash, Russell Stanley, and Jonathan Urbanczyk recently completed medical school. Bryce (TTUSM) will be headed to St. Louis and a residency in Plastic Surgery. Russell will be headed to Lubbock and residency in OB-GYN, Jonathan is headed to Scott & White and a residency in Internal Medicine.
Danni McMahon and Tara Williams both completed their Doctor of Pharmacy degrees at TTUSP. Danni was the top student in the class!
Karen McAlister and Heather Rawls Zamarron begin their Physician Assistant programs at the end of this month.
Undoubtedly there’s more news to share, but these are the ones we’ve been made aware of in recent days. We are excited about the students who have committed to McMurry this fall and hope you’ll spread the word to students who might like to join the next class of success stories!