A Day in the Life...

2014 Was a Very Good Year!

by gwilson on Dec.29, 2014, under A Day in the Life...

nicole graduationAs we close out 2014, I thought it would be an appropriate time to look at the events from late in the year that demonstrate some of the accomplishments of the BIMS program.

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:

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:  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 ( that provided the funding to begin an effort to greatly expand the recycling efforts on campus (  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!

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Nobel Week

by gwilson on Oct.08, 2014, under A Day in the Life..., Projects

nobelstudentsIn Contemporary Issues in Biomedical Science this semester, students are learning about the groundbreaking discoveries that will change the form and direction of health and medicine for years to come.  The students all have health professions in mind, and participation in this course should help inform them of breaking news in science just in time for their professional school admissions interviews.

This week the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded. John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser, and Edvard I. Moser are being honored for their work in discovering how the brain recognizes spatial location – a sort of “GPS” in the brain.  The announcement on Monday coincided with completion of a major assignment in the Contemporary Issues class.  Each student selected a Nobel Laureate from recent years and completed a research-style poster on their story, their work, and the ramifications of their discovery for the future of health and medicine.  From Sydney Brinner’s work with C. elegans to Elizabeth Blackburn’s studies of telomeres, from Stanley Prusiner’s discovery of prions to Fire and Mello’s transforming work on RNA gene silencing and Robert Edward’s opening the world of in vitro fertilization, all are showcased as defining discoveries with long-term impact.

These posters are being displayed in the Finch-Gray Science Center in time for this year’s McMurry Homecoming weekend.  Friends and alums will be able to see the emphasis we are placing on giving our BIMS students an education that is current and vital and geared as much toward “what will be” as it is in “what is past”.  We hope you will drop by for a look!

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Goodbye to Lauren

by gwilson on Jan.21, 2014, under A Day in the Life..., Students

laurenbumpguatemalaIt 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.

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