Tag: anna saghatelyan

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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Watch, Do, Teach

by gwilson on Jun.07, 2012, under A Day in the Life...

Charlie Troxel, Li-Cor field engineer, gives pointers on interpretation of DNA sequencing gel analysis to Paul Pyenta and Sheena Banks.

Charlie Troxel, Li-Cor field engineer, gives pointers on interpretation of DNA sequencing gel analysis to Paul Pyenta and Sheena Banks.

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.

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