Tag: antibiotic resistance
We believe strongly in our approach to research at McMurry. We see research as not being the “other” thing professors do after they have completed their teaching for the week; we see research as a great teaching tool for the average student. For instance, in Microbiology this semester the final project students are doing is determining whether their cell phones put out sufficient radiation to mutate the Staphylococci they isolated and identified from their bathrooms during project two. By doing this, they are learning literature searches, experimental design, development of antibiotic resistance by bacteria through random mutations (or in this case radiation-induced mutations), and scientific writing. All good skills we would have expected from our capstone students (well, the mutagenesis probably would’ve been some other investigation). Here, they are doing these things as sophomores. Similar approaches to research as a teaching tool are seen in many other BIMS courses, starting with their yeast fermentation experiments in their first semester General Biology I course.
But beyond research in regular lab courses, we also expect every student to have a capstone project involving research or internship. Research project currently in progress include the following:
- Studying the metagenomics of populations arising in Winogradsky columns vs. those of populations arising in Benoit columns (our Dr. Benoit has developed an alternative formulation for Winogradsky columns that uses diatomaceous earth instead of actual water source sediment as the basis for the solid phase of the column – see prior posts for more on this!). We are determining whether the Benoit column develops similar population profiles as those arising using actual sediment.
- Studying the presence of Coronaviruses in bat populations. Bat guano is collected and screened using genomic tools. Methodology began with samples recovered from museum specimens and has progressed to catching bats in the field and obtaining fresh samples.
- Studying the genomics of moles from museums around the nation to determine the biogeography and distribution of unique populations. Discovery of the westernmost specimens in Texas by one of our professors has led to this study to figure out which eastern population was the source so that a migration map can be constructed.
- Recovery of antimicrobial and anti-cancer chemicals from regional plants. Samples are obtained, studied chemically and physiologically for antibacterial properties on the McMurry campus. Collaborations between our faculty and those at other universities (University of San Francisco, Baylor University, and University of Pennsylvania) allow more advanced chemical analysis and anti-cancer screening assays.
- Studying the migration of crabs from coastal areas to inland lakes in Texas. Lots of time is spent sampling regional lakes for the presence of these invasive species to determine routes and methods they use for finding new freshwater habitats. A parallel study to this is the attempt to breed the crabs in captivity, something that has never been successfully done.
Is this it? Is this all our students have to choose from? Nope. This is simply the projects currently underway. We hope others will join our Research Teams and find their own, unique project from these and other options available at McMurry
On Thursday, February 4th, McMurry played host to Dr. Sung-Kun Kim from Baylor’s Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Dr. Kim spoke to students and faculty about his research into strategies for inhibiting activity of metallo-beta-lactamases. These enzymes destroy the beta-lactam antibiotics (penicillins, cephalosporins) and thus make the bacteria that produce them resistant to these drugs. Such enzymes are commonly called penicillinases, and pose a threat to effective treatment of patients with many types of infections.
Dr. Kim’s strategy involves the use of small, specific nucleic acid fragments he has labeled “aptamers” as penicillinase inhibitors so that the enzyme is disabled and cannot destroy beta-lactam antibiotics co-administered. Such an approach would mimic that used in the product Augmentin (R), which combines amoxicillin (a penicillin) with clavulanic acid – a chemical that is inhibitory for normal beta-lactamases. Because this approach does not work with the metallo-beta-lactamases, a new inhibitor was sought for this second class of beta-lactamases.
Through use of novel screening methods known as SELEX, candidate inhibitor fragments were identified and created. Tests revealed some 10-nucleotide fragments gave enzyme inhibition in nanomolar concentrations. Results from specificity tests and other tests of the molecules show promise for this new class of drugs for providing protection for beta-lactams that has not been available to date.
Dr. Kim’s presentation was entertaining and informing, and was received by an appreciative audience of students and faculty. He reminds us that biomedical science is an ongoing quest to make the next advance in the never-ending war between humans and disease. He stayed around afterward to meet with students interested in graduate programs available at Baylor, and to distribute the “Baylor toys” brought as giveaways – mementos from Baylor of his Abilene visit. More on Dr. Kim’s research can be found at his Baylor webpage: http://www.baylor.edu/chemistry/index.php?id=49300.
Late in the spring semester, McMurry holds its annual Academic Awards Luncheon to honor the top students in each academic and athletic program. That luncheon was held today, and it marked the first occasion to name the top BIMS majors.
With such a new program, there are only a dozen or so BIMS majors. They fall into two categories – those who entered the program this fall as freshmen, and those who have transferred into the program from other majors. For this reason, only two students were recognized. The Outstanding Freshman Biomedical Science Major for 2008-2009 is Jonathan Urbanczyk from Abilene. Lauren Bump (a sophomore in years but a junior in hours) was named the Outstanding Junior Biomedical Science Major. She hails from San Antonio. Both students have distinguished themselves in a variety of ways and are outstanding representatives of the program. We’re proud of them both. They represent a truly exceptional group of students who claim Biomedical Science as their major – every one is a joy in the classroom and has a promising future ahead.
Also at the Academic Awards Luncheon, the winners of the Third Annual Student Poster Competition were named. Twenty four posters explaining student research were submitted by individuals and groups from Biology, Biochemistry, Psychology, Sociology, Political Science, Business, and Physics. The top award for an individual poster went to Matt Durham for his project entitled “The Design and Construction of a Plasmid Vector for Encoding Green Fluorescent Protein that is Compatible with Bacillus thuringiensis.” The project was guided by BIMS faculty member Dr. Paul Pyenta in Chemistry & Biochemistry. Matt took up the project begun years ago by another student and made great strides to express gfp in Bt cells. The work is in support of an interdisciplinary project that will study the ecology of Bt spores through the use of the genetically-modified, gfp-expressing strain Matt has engineered.
Second place in the group project category went to Dustin Mance, Laura Salas, and Julie Halverson for their project entitled “The Inhibition of Mannitol Use of Gram Positive Bacteria by Bacitracin”. This project was completed in their BIOL 3410 Microbiology course, where the lab skills and knowledge are learned through student involvement in research projects. One of the early projects all students participated in was the isolation and identification of bacteria from nature. As groups, students then studied the antiseptic/disinfectant- and antibiotic-resistance of their bacteria. This group tested their Gram positive cocci’s antibiotic resistance using mannitol salt agar, and an interesting anomaly was seen with Julie’s Staphylococcus aureus. The bacteria turned the normally red plate yellow (as expected) everywhere except in the vicinity of the bacitracin antibiotic disk. Their final poster project was to study this phenomenon further. Obviously, their work impressed the judges.
Our congratulations to each of these students for a job well done. Can’t wait to see what Fall 2009 has in store for us!