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!
The end of the semester always bring forth a new crop of student research projects from the BIOL 3410 Microbiology lab. The first portion of the course’s lab is filled with projects to teach skills and knowledge. Then, in the last 5 weeks of the semester student groups design, conduct, analyze, and present their work.
All of these projects were imagined and conducted by students. They demonstrate the freedom students have in Microbiology to have some fun by using their skills to investigate more deeply an area of the course that was of particular interest to them along the way. Here’s a synopsis of some of the projects conducted this spring.
“The inhibition of mannitol use in a Gram positive coccus by bacitracin.” One group of students made a very curious observation when they were testing their unknown bacteria for antibiotic susceptibility. One person’s Staphylococcus aureus was unable to use mannitol on MSA in the presence of bacitracin. No other Gram positive cocci, including other strains of S. aureus, showed this unusual feature. Their work investigated the phenomenon.
“Growth of bacterial cells in the presence of pomegranate and UV light.” This group wanted to test the effectiveness of pomegranate juice as an anticancer agent by using DNA damage induced by UV light as their indicator for cell transformation. They grew cells on media containing pomegranate extract, collected them and exposed them to UV light, and then tested their survival in comparison to controls.
“Growth and identification of bacteria isolated from raw vegetables.” With the recent scare posed by Salmonella appearing in foods, this group decided to see whether any particular vegetables posed a greater threat in carrying those bacteria. They found many bacteria and fungi, identified many of the bacteria, but found the vegetables tested were free from Salmonella.
“Impact of tobacco products on the growth of bacteria.” Various tobacco products were added to growth media and growth curves were conducted to determine whether bacterial growth was retarded or enhanced.
These projects are indicative of the types routinely seen – students applying the skills learned in the course to study something of interest to them. Are health supplements really effective? Are my vegetables safe? Do the chemicals in tobacco hurt cell growth? If we accomplish in our courses the transference of knowledge to provide answers pertaining to the world at large, we have accomplished education’s greatest goal.