Archive for January, 2011
McMurry’s spring semester is underway and classes for Biomedical Science majors continue to draw interest from students and campus leaders. The BIMS 1300 Intro to Scientific Research course is filled beyond capacity. Taught by Dr. Wilson, students will explore what science is, how scientists work, and how the methods of science influence all of society. For instance, next week students will watch a video on the design firm IDEO and explore the basic science, applied science, engineering, and design that have gone into a variety of consumer products.
Dr. Benoit is teaching BIOL 1301 Unicellular Organisms to a healthy number of students. Their semester-long project will investigate protozoans and will culminate with identification, characterization, and photomicrography of single-celled organisms. This has proven to be a very popular and interesting class for new freshmen, and sets the stage well for a degree program filled with hands-on exploration of biomedical topics.
BIOL 3410 Microbiology is also filled to capacity and BIOL 3430 Human Physiology has a healthy enrollment. Both are part of the sophomore sequence for all BIMS majors. Dr. Wilson’s Micro course will feature lab projects looking at the microbial census of student cars, microbes in fresh foods, and viruses from the soil. As always, the focus is on learning knowledge and skills by jumping into research projects – students work as scientists to learn about microbiology. Dr. Sharp’s Human Phys will use a mixture of computer sims and hands-on biometrics to explore the workings of the human body.
Also being taught this semester is BIMS 4391 Advanced Microbiology. Dr. Wilson is leading five students on a quest to isolate and identify endospore-forming bacteria that produce antibiotics. Students will then produce the product using new benchtop fermenters and characterize the antibiotic product physically and chemically. The class is also considering a jaunt down to T-Bar-M ranch for the Spring Meeting of the Texas Branch of the American Society Microbiology, which emphasizes graduate and undergraduate research. ROAD TRIP!
Another unique feature of the BIMS program is the BIMS 4000 Junior Exam course, where students take a departmental diagnostic exam over their first two years of courses to help assess their learning to this point and to help the department assess the effectiveness of its courses in teaching fundamental information. The five students signed up for the course may take this online exam as often as needed to achieve a passing grade.
Finally, several students are engaged in capstone research this semester with Drs. Benoit and Wilson. They will be ramping up the YES assay for detecting estrogen-like compounds in environmental samples of water and soil. We’ve challenged them with developing the protocols for use on campus and developing the standard curve for the assay, then begin testing on some samples from area surface and ground waters.
So, it is a busy time for a healthy program. Bright students have chosen our unique approach to education and are thriving in the hands-on environment.
The third game created as a final project by students in BIOL 1300 Intro to Scientific Reseaarch was called “College Life”. It was voted overall “best game” by the majority of class members. This game about the academic climb from entering freshman to graduating senior was created by team members Chris Tatum, Raven Blanchard, Jessika Williams, and Sara Ploetz.
College Life is a multi-player game in which students move around a gameboard based on the McMurry campus map to answer questions from a variety of categories representing the general education requirements for a degree. They must also choose a major where additional questions have to be answered. As they reach milestones in courses completed, they move from freshman to sophomore and up through the classifications until they become seniors. Questions increase in difficulty as one progresses to become a senior. Fine Arts questions might require modeling with clay or signing a song or drawing an object, showing that this is not an ordinary trivia question game. Other categories (History, Science, Humanities, Math, and Business) also used innovative means for challenging students. As seniors, they must answer capstone questions in their major in order to graduate from College Life as the winner.
All students in the class played the three games and rated them on their playability, their conformance to the expected specifications, and their inclusion of elements from the course – use of inductive and deductive logic, cause and effect, repetitive use of the question-test-analysis cycle (the scientific method), and so forth. Students rated it highest in playability and learning curve, in the “fun factor” and in conformance to design specifications laid out beforehand. They felt it was the game “most ready for prime time”, that this game could be refined into a fun game for the whole family and would have a decent chance of being commercialized. Congratulations to these students for creating the winning entry into the game competition for Fall 2010.
During the semester, I often described our approach to learning about how science is done as being a “wax on, wax off” method of teaching solid content and abilities using unconventional methods. The final products of the course – the games just described – demonstrated the approach works surprisingly well. Can’t wait to see what the Spring 2011 class will accomplish!