BIMS

Tag: bacillus cereus

Honors Research

by gwilson on Apr.01, 2013, under Projects

CWB ChinaRock croppedRecently, three BIMS majors found out they will receive Bloomer and Beasley Research Fellowships for the coming year.  All three are students of Dr. Gary Wilson and will be pursuing different projects investigating Bacillus thuringiensis spore properties as they pursue Honors research and write their Honors theses in the next year.

The Charles and Lisa Bloomer Research Fellowship is awarded to support research of promising students in the School of Natural and Computational Science (SNCS).  This initiative of the Science and Math Advisory Board (SMAB) provides a research stipend for students as they work closely with McMurry faculty on a research project.  Dr. Bloomer is a successful oral surgeon in Abilene who has generously and regularly supported the sciences at his alma mater.  The biennial picnic the Bloomers host for SMAB members and SNCS faculty is a popular event building relationships and communicating the vision each holds for McMurry’s science future.  The Beasley Research Fellowship is a new program supporting student research in the biological sciences.  McMurry’s science alumni are spearheading an effort to create an endowment in memory of Dr. Clark Beasley, Distinguished Professor Emeritus from the Department of Biology who died this past summer.  This represents the first year this fellowship has been awarded.

Recipients of this year’s awards are Heather Rawls, Miranda Nguyen, and Nicole McGunegle.  Their projects will study wild type and genetically-engineered strains of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and Bacillus cereus (Bc) grown in rich and poor media.  Bt is a spore-former that produces an insecticidal toxin at the time of sporulation.  Bc is a commonly encountered and well-studied spore-former closely related to Bt but generally harmless.  The genetically-engineered strains include  Bt strains that do not form crystals and Bc strains that have been engineered to produce Bt crystals.  One project will look at how the presence or absence of the crystal in rich and poor media influences spore and crystal size and toxicity.  A second project will look at how growth conditions impact spore dormancy and the process of activation and germination.  It is possible an undiscovered variation of quorum sensing might be involved.  The third project will explore UV and chemical resistance of wild type and genetically-engineered strains produced in rich and poor media.  All projects fit the criteria for BIMS research:  a complete project doable in a short time frame, certain discovery no matter the experimental outcome, publishable work.

Stay tuned for updates on how this work is progressing!

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Our Guiding Principles – Part 2

by gwilson on Jul.16, 2012, under Program

DSCN4086Our second guiding principle is really simple:  ”Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should”.  We believe it is important to teach our students to dream big but to dream with an ethical and moral anchor.  With every big dream should come the question “Why are we doing this?”, and if we cannot answer that with something honorable and true and right, then we should consider why it should be done at all.  Let our conscience guide our decision-making, rather than checking that at the door to our laboratories!  This same ethical and moral gut-check goes for our career guidance, our course advising, and our options for capstone research.  Every car needs an accelerator to move forward and accomplish amazing things.  But it also needs a brake pedal and a steering wheel to turn that movement into productive action.

An example of how “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should” works can be seen in some recent capstone projects.  In recent years we have implemented systems for testing environmental estrogen-like compounds, germination assays for bacterial spores, and fermentation physiology for beer production.  In each case, the project was tailored to the skills and abilities and career goals of the student.  In each case we had to scale back the scope of the project to help students find success in the limited amount of time available.  One recent group of students in Advanced Microbiology was studying resistance and germination of various mutant strains of Bacillus thuringiensis and Bacillus cereus.  As the students in the course brainstormed about directions this could take, we continually brought the discussion back to manageable parameters with the phrase, “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should”.  We ended up with a limited project that could be completed in one semester and which resulted in posters for the students that were entered in (and won) an undergraduate research competition at another university.  Good research is more about depth of thought and analysis than breadth of work with shallow analysis and interpretation.

Even beyond the practical limitations for what we should do in research, we need to be teaching our students self-restraint when it comes to what is moral and ethical, keeping their efforts centered on what is honorable, true and right – and not just on what is possible.  If we don’t ingrain in our students the importance of using that filter to rein in big dreams for the sake of fostering edifying dreams, we are failing in McMurry’s mission to build a better leader for tomorrow.

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