BIMS

Tag: breast cancer research

Fall Course Update

by gwilson on Sep.27, 2009, under A Day in the Life...

dsc04We’re now about a fourth of the way through the semester, and I thought I’d give an update of what’s going on in our BIMS courses and program.

BIMS 1300.  Intro to Scientific Research.  Dr. Benoit has students looking at contemporary issues in science and explaining the science and processes and research to students in the class via formal presentations.  Ever wonder what they’re talking about with stem cells, how DNA fingerprinting is done, how ethical breaches impact biomedical research?  Stop by and you just might find your answers!

BIOL 1301.  Unicellular Organisms.  Dr. Benoit has had the unfortunate luck over the past few years of seeing every book chosen for this course taken out of print.  He’s decided to take things into his own hands and has go with a custom published book that draws only the chapters central to his course from a larger textbook.  The course is taking a decided cell anatomy and physiology focus to help prepare students for their sophomore level classes.

BIOL 3410.  Microbiology.  Dr. Wilson has his students screening fresh vegetables for E. coli and other enteric organisms.  Next up will be their screening of the campus population for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).  Real science here conducted by lots of sophomores and juniors from Biology, Nursing, Biochemistry, and Biomedical Science majors.

BIOL 3460.  Genetics.  Dr. DiFrancesca will be missing class in mid-October to attend the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in San Diego.  By then, the students will have isolated their own DNA and will be in the midst of PCR and analysis.  While she’s gone, the students will have a guest lecture by Dr. Jon Weidanz of the Texas Tech School of Pharmacy in Abilene (and the founder of the biotech firm Receptor Logic) discussing the genetics of biotech research.  Amazing things going on in here!

BIOL 4320.  Molecular Cell Biology.  Students are getting a great foundation in the fundamentals of molecular structure and control of eukaryotic cells.  This course represents the content capstone for BIMS juniors, where knowledge from previous semesters is integrated into a full understanding of how cells work.  Dr. DiFrancesca has got it going on in here!

BIMS 4120. Molecular Cell Biology Lab.  Here, Dr. DiFrancesca builds on skills learned in Genetics the year before to provide a deep experience in molecular biology techniques.  Students have not begun working with cancer cells yet but will embark on that journey before much longer.  Imagine the conversation around the dinner table at Thanksgiving – “Sonny, what are you doing in your classes at McMurry?”  “Well, grandma, we’re studying and trying to find cures for breast cancer.”  Is that the type of thing you’d hear from average students from average schools?

So, its business as usual in the BIMS courses, all geared toward giving students real experience solving real problems.  When you compare this approach to education to those from other colleges and universities, you see very quickly that we take a different approach and give our students a different experience because the futures of our students depend on doing so.

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BIMS Retreat Planned for Friday August 14th

by gwilson on Aug.11, 2009, under A Day in the Life...

bimsflyergraphicThis Friday, the faculty of the Biomedical Science Program will meet for a retreat to discuss our first year of operation and plan for the year ahead.  Attending will be Tom Benoit, Heidi DiFrancesca, and Gary Wilson from Biology, Paul Pyenta from Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Alicia Wyatt from Computer Science.  Larry Sharp is on vacation and will miss the meeting.

In reviewing the first year of operation, many milestones suggest a rich and profitable future for the program.  The first year saw over 20 students declare a BIMS major, mostly incoming freshmen interested in health professions or biotech.  The new courses were very well populated.  Growing publicity from the city fathers, The Development Corporation of Abilene, the TTU School of Pharmacy, and local biotech firm Receptor Logic helped to strengthen our position as the premiere life science/biotech training program in Abilene.  Heidi DiFrancesca and Hyunshun Shin from Chemistry & Biochemistry have begun collaborating on a project to develop and test new treatments for breast cancer.  And McMurry has seen the value in promoting these endeavors through funding for equipment and supplies to support the research-in-teaching approach used in BIMS.

I’m sure some time will be spent discussing the parallel development of the biotech infrastructure in Abilene, with a variety of support facilities (including the Abilene Life Sciences Foundation Research Accelerator facility) coming on line.  Add to this the decision by Abilene Independent School District to start a new engineering/computer science high school this fall and you have converging efforts that point to a bright future.  One of the tracks possible at the new high school is biotech engineering, which Dr. Jon Weidanz from TTUHSC-School of Pharmacy and I are promoting.

So what does the future hold?  That is the reason for our retreat!  I expect that we’ll see growing commitments to link our courses together and use our BIMS lab courses to conduct research.  We’ll see BIMS-focused proposals for the lab renovation competition being held on campus later this month.  We’ll see plans for research grants and programs to help high school science teachers learn and implement new methods, techniques, and equipment into their courses.  We’ll see more articulation agreements with professional schools for pharmacy, physical therapy, and who knows what else!   Clearly, BIMS is on the move and possesses the creative firepower to transform the sciences at McMurry.  Thoughtful planning and staged implementation are keys to making that happen.

Check back in a few weeks as I give an update on the event!

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