Tag: capstone research

Real-life CSI!

by gwilson on Feb.06, 2012, under Projects

fly clip artFor the past decade, one of the most popular television franchises has been CSI, where the tools of forensic science are used to solve crime.  The BIMS program was created to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to join their TV counterparts to help bring criminals to justice.

But forensic science is MUCH more than DNA fingerprinting and other biotech and immunological methods.  Sometimes, the key evidence is provided by six-legged pests.  This semester, upper level students in Dr. Tierney Brosius’ Entomology class and two capstone students are joining scientists from universities across the country in a project being directed by the University of Nebraska to study chemical attractants that draw flies to decaying flesh and to see what species are most commonly attracted by which chemical.

To do their work, students will create bait traps containing suspect chemicals and scatter them around campus.  Then, over the course of many days the flies attracted will be counted and identified to search for patterns and answers.  Results will be added to those from students from other schools to see whether there are regional differences in effective chemicals and in species attracted.

More than anything, such studies provide students with valuable experience participating in the industry of science.  But another benefit is the realization that the glamour and simplicity of television science and technology come about through long, hard work done by dedicated researchers.

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Semester Underway

by gwilson on Jan.22, 2011, under Program

155183_470163067634_676602634_5779494_82383_nMcMurry’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.

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Spaces for New Programs

by gwilson on Oct.16, 2009, under A Day in the Life...

blueprintSeveral years ago, Dr. Russell laid out his vision for McMurry’s future in a speech entitled Vision 2023 .  Central to that vision was an emphasis on growth of the sciences and their importance in preparing our graduates for jobs of the future.  Biology responded to the challenge of building new and relevant programs for life sciences by developing three new, more focused programs.  One of these is the BIMS program. 

At the same time, the McMurry Capital Campaign, Shaping the Future, has a focus on supporting spaces for the sciences.  These two developments led to a competition on campus this fall where programs were challenged with proposing new spaces to fit their new programs and help make their delivery more effective and efficient.  Thought was that an invitation to develop a variety of science building proposals would provide a excellent collection of projects that could be shopped to potential donors to help improve all science programs.  Biology submitted two lab renovation proposals, one of which was heavily geared toward improving spaces for BIMS courses.

The BIMS proposal calls for several improvements, including renovating and expanding spaces now used for teaching molecular biology and microbiology courses.  The current spaces, S115 and S102, are home to labs (and sometimes lectures) for Genetics, Molecular Biology, Advanced Bioscience Techniques, Unicellular Organisms, Intro to Scientific Research, Microbiology, Immunology, and Senior Capstone Research.  Obviously, such heavily used spaces are unusual on any campus and thus pose challenges to effective and efficient delivery, especially in a research-oriented approach to teaching.  Renovating these spaces to better meet the needs of all students in these various courses is a challenge worthy of lab renovation.

In the competition, a Physics proposal and the BIMS proposal were chosen for funding.  The Trustees meet this weekend and hopes are they will approve expenditure of $2.5M from the Capital Campaign to fund the renovation projects.  If so, planningand design will begin immediately and the renovation will start in May to be completed before the Fall 2010 semester. 

Here is what the BIMS proposal consists of:  more flexible spaces that will support both lecture and lab, anterooms for equipment and incubation and project setup so students can work on their projects outside of their normal hours without interefering with other classes using the teaching spaces, a common equipment area for major pieces of equipment that might be used by students in either lab, special spaces for working with RNA and tissue culture, and possibly additional offices and student space for study, group work, and “hanging out”.  Our hope is our students will become citizens of the building and not simply tourists, that thinking and acting like scientists will give all our BIMS graduates a leg up on those who have gone through conventional and impersonal science programs.

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