BIMS

Tag: Clark Beasley

End to a Successful Year

by gwilson on Jun.03, 2014, under Program

churchsunsetAs the 2013-2014 academic year comes to a close, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on some of the high points for our students and programs.

  • Food Microbiology.  Students investigated the safety of college students’ kitchens using standard sampling methods and identified a variety of microbes.  They held a Thanksgiving Week feast of foods made using microbes, and ended the semester by writing a pamphlet to provide college students with tips for having a safe kitchen.
  • Microbiology.  Students learned their lab techniques through two investigations conducted.  The first was isolation and identification of bacteria from meats:  hamburger, ground turkey, ground venizen, and the surfaces of chicken and dove breasts.  It was fascinating!  The second study was isolation and identification of bacteria from the toothbrushes of college students.
  • Microbial Diversity.  Students searched soil, plants, fresh and ocean waters for as many bacteria as they could isolate and identify.  At the conclusion of the semester, each student submitted 10 new strains to our stock collection, representing a wide diversity of bacterial shapes, groupings, and metabolic capabilities.  Their final project was a project to identify and design a plan to terraform a new planet using microbes.
  • Research Fellowships.  Three BIMS students received research fellowships to support their work:  two Bloomer Fellowships and the first Beasley Fellowship awarded.
  • Honors Students.  The BIMS program generated five of the nine McMurry Honors Program graduates this spring.  Another will graduate this summer.  Their theses, each of which is the equivalent of a masters thesis in length, quality, and expectations, cover topics such as bacterial spore size variations due to genetic modification and growth medium, spore germination properties of genetically modified and wild type strains, investigation of the possible disruptors of spore germination assays, isolation of new hydrocarbonoclastic (oil-eating) bacteria from railroad rail beds, and investigation of drug delivery methods on cancer treatment efficacy.
  • Assessment.  In our departmental assessment, the BIMS students have once again stood out for their abilities and achievement.  Scores on the ETS Major Fields Test in Biology demonstrated the quality of the courses they’ve taken to prepare our students for successful lives.  Scores placed our students above the mean for the 488 universities participating in categories emphasized by the BIMS program, and near the mean for the others.
  • Graduates.  We have seen BIMS graduates continue to excel in their placement in biotech jobs and graduate programs, and health professions schools (medical, PA, podiatry).  What is the likelihood a BIMS graduate will end up using their BIMS degree?  Something like 80% of all BIMS graduates from program inception are working in the field or pursuing graduate or advanced health professions degrees.

So, we have every reason to consider this an exceptionally good year for the BIMS program.  We are hard at work on improvements for the program and our campus culture for the fall semester.  Stay tuned for details!

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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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