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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by gwilson on Sep.04, 2014, under Program

pandemicIn the world of rocketry, there’s preparation and then there’s launch.

We are in the countdown stage of an important launch in McMurry Biology circles.  Beginning Friday, September 5th, Biology will participate in a new initiative to build community among our science students:  Science Fridays.  Each Friday, students and faculty and friends will gather for lunch and community in the Finch-Gray Science Center.  There will be club meetings (Tri-Beta, Chem Club, Society of Physics Students, AITP, Math Club), special events (field trips, Skype speakers, visiting alumni presentations, etc.), and plenty of fun – horseshoes or darts anyone?  We’ll also have games like Pandemic and movies (our first movie will be Friday Sept 19 with Contagion).  Oh, and departments are offering tutoring services to students!

This promises to be a wildly successful effort to bring our new freshmen into the McMurry science community, to connect our students with our faculty, and to improve spirit and understanding on campus.  If things go as planned, the outcome will be more successful students, greater retention within the sciences, and an environment that will attract new science majors.

Our theme at McMurry this year is “Ubuntu” – I am because we are.  Our community-building initiative builds on a successful start by Physics and Chemistry, and is expanded in audience and activities to reach more students, meet their needs, and move them toward a successful future.  In a very tangible way, McMurry sciences are living ubuntu with our students.

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