We’ve entered into that mid-semester respite known as Spring Break. It came none too soon this year! After a couple of months of digging into our courses and working around a week of snow and ice, now we experience the equivalent to “hump day” and start the downward slide toward summer. For some, it means the end is coming too soon to get their course performances up to snuff. For others, it means the end of the semester is a mirage on the horizon – a moving target that never seems to get closer.
So what does all that mean when it comes to our semester grounded in reality? It means we are past mid-term grades. It means we start the thoughts of pre-registration for next fall. It means things like academic awards banquets and end-of-school accolades take center stage. It means we work hard to recruit our incoming students and prepare ourselves to bid farewell to graduating seniors. Such things are never on our radar screens in August or September, but cannot be overlooked when the calendar reads “March”.
For all who are already part of our BIMS program, rest up this week and be ready for “finishing well” – the mark of outstanding students. For those looking to join our program, “finish well” where you are. We look forward to walking through your college careers with you to prepare you for meaningful careers in biomedical science – research, employment, patient care, forensics.
McMurry’s spring semester is underway and classes for Biomedical Science majors continue to draw interest from students and campus leaders. The BIMS 1300 Intro to Scientific Research course is filled beyond capacity. Taught by Dr. Wilson, students will explore what science is, how scientists work, and how the methods of science influence all of society. For instance, next week students will watch a video on the design firm IDEO and explore the basic science, applied science, engineering, and design that have gone into a variety of consumer products.
Dr. Benoit is teaching BIOL 1301 Unicellular Organisms to a healthy number of students. Their semester-long project will investigate protozoans and will culminate with identification, characterization, and photomicrography of single-celled organisms. This has proven to be a very popular and interesting class for new freshmen, and sets the stage well for a degree program filled with hands-on exploration of biomedical topics.
BIOL 3410 Microbiology is also filled to capacity and BIOL 3430 Human Physiology has a healthy enrollment. Both are part of the sophomore sequence for all BIMS majors. Dr. Wilson’s Micro course will feature lab projects looking at the microbial census of student cars, microbes in fresh foods, and viruses from the soil. As always, the focus is on learning knowledge and skills by jumping into research projects – students work as scientists to learn about microbiology. Dr. Sharp’s Human Phys will use a mixture of computer sims and hands-on biometrics to explore the workings of the human body.
Also being taught this semester is BIMS 4391 Advanced Microbiology. Dr. Wilson is leading five students on a quest to isolate and identify endospore-forming bacteria that produce antibiotics. Students will then produce the product using new benchtop fermenters and characterize the antibiotic product physically and chemically. The class is also considering a jaunt down to T-Bar-M ranch for the Spring Meeting of the Texas Branch of the American Society Microbiology, which emphasizes graduate and undergraduate research. ROAD TRIP!
Another unique feature of the BIMS program is the BIMS 4000 Junior Exam course, where students take a departmental diagnostic exam over their first two years of courses to help assess their learning to this point and to help the department assess the effectiveness of its courses in teaching fundamental information. The five students signed up for the course may take this online exam as often as needed to achieve a passing grade.
Finally, several students are engaged in capstone research this semester with Drs. Benoit and Wilson. They will be ramping up the YES assay for detecting estrogen-like compounds in environmental samples of water and soil. We’ve challenged them with developing the protocols for use on campus and developing the standard curve for the assay, then begin testing on some samples from area surface and ground waters.
So, it is a busy time for a healthy program. Bright students have chosen our unique approach to education and are thriving in the hands-on environment.
The final project for the lab this semester in BIMS 1300 Introduction to Scientific Research is development of games that implement all of the concepts we’ve learned this semester. The checklist of specifications is extensive and each must be defended by the inventors:
- must require players to use the basics of the scientific method,
- must require qualitative and quantitative observations and analysis,
- must address concepts of accuracy and precision,
- must include elements of “cause and effect”,
- must require players to use inductive and deductive reasoning,
- must include elements of observation without intervention, controlled experimentation, and statistical correlation with intervention (the photo shows a plan one group will use to replicate a double-blind study as players land on particular spaces of their game board).
Three teams are hard at work, with two games focused on college life and the third centered on a “you be the doctor” approach to medical diagnosis and treatment. Each team will present their game to the class on November 29th, and each team will play each other’s games during the week and critique them based on a rubric incorporating all specifications (there are more than those listed above).
Who knows – maybe one of these will be on your 2011 Christmas list!
All along this semester I’ve told my students we were taking a “wax on, wax off” approach to learning how scientists work (if that flew over your head, watch Karate Kid and you’ll see what I’m talking about). Even in their final lab project they are seeing how skills used by scientists are applicable to approaching problems they encounter in every day life. Better critical thinkers developed in a fun and creative environment should prepare these students well for their advanced science courses.