One thing academic programs share with athletic programs is the need to establish and cultivate a pipeline of new talent into the system. One day our current students will graduate, and without new faces to take their place our programs would cease to exist. Like any team sport, being successful all boils down to numbers – recruiting great talent in quality and quantity. In the months to come, BIMS will once again make its pitch to bring in a large, talented class of bright and eager students intent on being academic superstars and thus prepare for their future careers in health professions and other fields.
One great recruiting opportunity for BIMS is in the McMurry University Honors Program. Around 30% of all Honors theses in the past few years have been written by students from one major – Biomedical Science. The other 45+ majors have contributed the rest. So, we eagerly anticipate Honors Days at McMurry. These events introduce prospective students to McMurry, our Honors program, and many Honors students. There are faculty interviews and an essay, all of which factor into awarding of very sizable merit-based scholarships. Honors Days this year will fall on November 14, November 21, and December 12, and we will be there to describe our program.
We are very excited about Science Saturday, which is coming on January 23, 2016. All prospective students with an interest in a science major will be invited to campus for the day, to hear about our programs, participate in hand-on activities related to our programs, and otherwise get a feel for the warm, welcoming environment to be found on campus. BIMS will contribute at least two activities to the morning: an epidemiology simulation/contest, and a DNA extraction and analysis activity. Students will be able to choose which sessions they can participate in, up to three during the morning session. Of course, ours will be the best.
So we hope you can make it to one of these events! If not, you can always schedule your own personal visit by calling 325-793-3800 and asking for Admissions. We look forward to getting to know you and your family and helping chart out your college career!
In BIMS, we believe a student “gets it” more quickly when the topics covered in lab are intertwined and connected – not when they follow the disjointed and unrelated approach seen at most colleges and universities. For that reason, we are teaching our Gen Bio I lab through student participation in four major projects. We believe we can give students a good look at the various topics central a first semester freshman biology course through Winogradsky columns (their “pets”), experiments with the fungus Pilobolus, photosynthesis with alginate balls containing the alga Chlorella, and fermentation experiments using the yeast Saccharomyces.
Pilobolus is a fungus that grows on the dung of herbivorous animals. It is sometimes called the “shotgun fungus” or “dung cannon” because of its means for dispersing spores. Its life cycle includes production of spores that shoot out from the fungal colony to land on nearby grasses. When a herbivore eats those grasses, the fungus germinates and grows in the animal waste where it produces more spores to shoot out and start the cycle over again. The key to success for the fungus is a light-sensitive structure that helps aim the spores away from surrounding dung toward an open area where new grass can be found.
The question our students have been asked to determine is whether it is possible to improve the accuracy of the fungus by natural selection. Cultures are grown in a closed container with a hole provided for light to pass through. Our students are placing sterile coverslips over the holes to catch any spores that are accurately shot at the light. Those inaccurate spores hit and stick to the other parts of the container. So each group will create one of these chambers and after two weeks will take photos of the inside of the chamber to document where spores hit (the scatter pattern). Then, the cover slips are removed and used to inoculate new plates of media. The experiment is repeated with new chambers to see if spore accuracy is improved by using spores that were accurate the first time. If the spores hitting the coverslip give rise to fungal colonies with more accurate spores, the scatter pattern for the second test should be much smaller and more concentrated than before.
What are we learning? Phototropism, some mycology, cell biology, cultivation techniques, experimental design, data analysis, and much more. Will this work? We’ll let you know in a few weeks!
The start of the Fall Semester and the 2015-16 school year brings with it a new start in the biology programs at McMurry. New Biomedical Science majors join those from Biology and Life Sciences in taking the new Biology Core – common classes that insure a common experience covering the breadth of biology. This fall, the first new course is being taught – General Biology I – and its follow-up (ingeniously called General Biology II) will follow in the spring.
Lots of schools have a similar two-semester freshman biology sequence. Like many, ours is cells, processes and genetics in the first and multicellular organisms, diversity of life and ecology in the second. However, we hope that the lab for General Biology I will set our program apart from most. The lab, designed by Dr. Benoit, is based on a few “canned” labs interspersed among several multi-week projects covering key concepts and teaching skills central to future biology courses. There will be a project creating and studying Winogradsky columns that will emphasize metabolism and nutrient cycling and ecological succession. Another will use yeast to demonstrate carbon dioxide generation in fermentation and alginate beads to follow its consumption in photosynthesis. A third will require groups of students to design experiments with yeast to study fermentation changes with variations in substrates or environmental conditions. And mitosis and meiosis will be followed using yeast mating experiments. Not exactly an approach taken by most colleges for teaching first semester college students. Our intent is to give them an engaging course unlike anything taken before, one that teaches principles and how science is done and provides experience putting skills learned into action to provide answers to biological questions.
We should be posting stories from this course here and on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/McMurry-Biomedical-Science-Program-BIMS/118598184311) during the semester. Hope you will follow our journey!