A Day in the Life...
Our program thrives on feedback from graduates, unsolicited comments that help us shape and improve our program. It is one of two things we ask of every BIMS graduate: stay in touch and let us know what we are doing well and where we need change. The other thing we ask is for them to be successful and change the world.
So it is not a surprise that we have heard back from a student who is in his first year of medical school. He provided his topic list for the first week or so of medical school, with a comment that a week of medical school includes a semester of biochemistry. That, and the emphasis on metabolism and physiology, are signals to us to be sure our pre-med students are advised into particular courses and that our required courses emphasize important topics. We want our students to be successful and prepared. So every comment from alums is considered valuable to that end.
Next week, I will be giving the welcome for the faculty to the students of McMurry at our Fall Convocation. The key point I will make is that faculty are not the enemy – we are the allies who work with students to achieve success. The enemies are laziness, distraction, and lack of discipline that cause students to lose their focus on what is important to their future. They need to devote everything within them to growth of body, mind, and spirit during their four years of college. We, the faculty, are devoting our efforts to help this happen; they need to do their part as well.
Faculty are in an unusual position of giving away to students everything they have learned in order to allow their students to achieve greater things than they thought possible. It is an unselfish and totally satisfying career. But I digress… :) Suffice it to say that this week’s feedback from our med student alum is rewarding – a student says “thanks” and moves forward to achieve his dream. Our program learns valuable information that can be applied to give others that same advantage in professional school. And the sweet rewards of being a college faculty member are realized.
One of the hallmarks of medical education is the concept of “watch, do, teach” – watch a procedure, do the procedure, teach the procedure – as a way to grow knowledge and skill in future doctors. That same approach was used this week as Charlie Troxel from Li-Cor in Nebraska visited the BIMS labs to help McMurry faculty improve their skills with their DNA sequencer. McMurry’s sequencer has been in service since 2008, but changes in personnel and projects necessitated some training upgrades. McMurry faculty used PCR to amplify their target DNA and loaded the sequencer on Wednesday afternoon. Fourteen hours later, the sequencing was done and teacher and students reconvened in the BIMS lab to observe the results. Several software packages allowed the participants to evaluate the confidence of each base sequenced and provided ways to align sequences to test their consistency. Pointers were given on how best to proceed with the plant samples Banks will analyze for Dr. Anna this summer as a part of a project to study genetic drift between specimens of a species collected in Old World and New World ecosystems. The Li-Cor 4300 will get quite a workout between now and the end of the year.
That explains the “Watch” and “Do” activities. The “Teach” component comes this fall as Banks puts the instrument to work teaching her Molecular Cell Biology Lab students how to do sequencing and analysis. Nice.
Students in BIOL 3410 Microbiology this semester are serving as guinea pigs for the beta-testing of the next generation of VirtualUnknown(TM) Microbiology software. They join scores of students from across the nation in giving a trial run to VirtualUnknown(TM) Microbiology Internet Edition 2012 (VUMIE 2012). The software is a product of Intuitive Systems, Inc. and has ties to McMurry faculty and alumni. VUMIE 2012 will feature for the first time Mac and Linux compatibility and will sport a new look, new features, and a new lab manual.
VirtualUnknown(TM) Microbiology software is a self-described “flight simulator” for the microbiology lab, engaging students in the cognitive and manipulative skills required to study bacteria. The software won one of three awards for new software products for medical education at the 2000 Slice of Life/Computers in Health Education Symposium conference in Salt Lake City. Over 60 software packages entered the competition from four continents and around 20 different countries. VUMicro was the only winner not developed at a medical school. Today, the software is in use in colleges and universities across the nation and in a few nations overseas. For more info on what it can do, visit www.virtualunknown.com.
Besides the on-campus students in Micro, there is one student whose work schedule and place of residence make regular participation in lecture and lab at McMurry impossible. She has completed her degree in chemical engineering and is taking the course in preparation for entering pharmacy school, so the pitfalls of distance learning and rigors of the course should not prove impossible to overcome. For her, the use of the software means a virtual lab experience is available on a daily basis even though she cannot regularly join in the lab activities. Practice in streaking plates and microscopy and biochemical tests will be possible on her computer so that the methods and skills others are experiencing on campus do not pass her by. She will be “soloing” from her home an hour’s drive away while others are here on campus.
We will check back in later in the semester to let you in on how this experiment is working. Is the new software everything hoped for? Is our phantom student mastering skills and knowledge from afar at a rate comparable to those on campus?