BIMS

Tag: DNA sequencing

Snot for Science

by gwilson on Oct.09, 2009, under Projects

DSCN3196

Hmmm… Maybe you CAN pick your friend’s nose after all.

Our Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus study is underway, and the response has been all we hoped for!  In three days we surpassed our goal of 100 samples taken from 100 students from every corner of campus.  Next step?  We’ll do Gram stains, catalase test, coagulase test, and confirm results using BD-Crystal Rapid ID panels to confirm Staphylococcus aureus.  That will end our lab work on THIS project for the semester, but then comes the more laborious part of the project – inputting data from the surveys and lab tests, doing the statistical analysis, etc.  Students this semester will end their contributions to the project by putting together their research posters in which they’ll focus in on one aspect of the study.

In the spring we’ll continue the project in two ways.  First, I’ll repeat the work with McMurry faculty and staff.  Second, we’ll hand over any presumed MRSA strains to students in another course who will do the DNA sequencing necessary to confirm the presence of the mecA gene – the “gold standard” in MRSA confirmation.  How ironic that the project starts with swabbing the nose and ends with a “gold standard”.

We also have a student whose Honors project involves surveying environmental surfaces for MRSA, so we’ll have a full profile of MRSA on campus. 

This has been a very fun and popular project that has taught my students lots of basic microbiology through involvement in an interesting and relevant research project.  I could have taught it in the conventional way – but how much fun would that have been?  The McMurry BIMS approach to teaching is the only way to go!

By the way, reporters don’t come out to talk with you when you teach your labs in conventional ways.  So why not promote your program as you teach by doing interesting projects with your students?  For more info on this project, become a fan of the BIMS Facebook page and see some of the press we received!

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Final Frenzy

by gwilson on Apr.15, 2009, under A Day in the Life...

dilutions3We are nearing the end of the spring semester at McMurry, and every course is experiencing the “crunch” that comes from too much left to do and to little time left for its accomplishment.  The BIMS program being in its infancy, we have had to settle for minor successes in most every class.  Sorting through the problems and issues associated with implementing a new approach to teaching has left us a bit disappointed while also very encouraged.

The Chlamydomonas races our freshman students were working on will have to be modified somewhat.  Isolation of the organisms from natural sources, culturing them, their purification, and selection of the fastest strains was not as straightforward as we’d hoped.  Too much light here, too few nutrients there, and we end up refocusing the course on how best to grow the “wee beasties”.  The final projects in Microbiology have been compacted into only two weeks due to overruns in previous experiments done by the class (the growth curve experiment previously reported, among them).  No doubt there will be some excellent projects still (one survey of produce items for Salmonella shows some promising early results, and another focused on how tobacco products influence bacterial growth and mutation looks to be very well designed).  The cancer research being done in the senior capstone course has been toned down a bit due to problems with culturing the cancer cells (as chronicled previously).  As a result, the DNA sequencing that was planned may now be modified into a less ambitious project.

Are we disappointed?  Yes.  Are we discouraged?  No.  Like research itself, the establishment of a new program or protocol is frequently a learning experience where adaptations and modifications are the norm.  In spite of the setbacks, much is being learned.  Faculty are learning our strengths and limitations and are sure this time next year the results we report will be exciting and interesting.  Students have experienced the “high” that comes from putting ideas to the test to find truth about nature.  More than one has expressed greater excitement and interest in research as a future.  As one put it, “If you don’t stop making science so much fun, I may decide I don’t want to go to medical school afterall!”

The greatest discovery of all this semester has been that our discovery-based approach in a research-rich and skills-laden environment works to engage students and deliver courses effectively to eager and willing and excited students.  We are encouraged about the future of the program and its impact on our students.

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