BIMS

Tag: fermentation

Our Guiding Principles – Part 2

by gwilson on Jul.16, 2012, under Program

DSCN4086Our second guiding principle is really simple:  ”Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should”.  We believe it is important to teach our students to dream big but to dream with an ethical and moral anchor.  With every big dream should come the question “Why are we doing this?”, and if we cannot answer that with something honorable and true and right, then we should consider why it should be done at all.  Let our conscience guide our decision-making, rather than checking that at the door to our laboratories!  This same ethical and moral gut-check goes for our career guidance, our course advising, and our options for capstone research.  Every car needs an accelerator to move forward and accomplish amazing things.  But it also needs a brake pedal and a steering wheel to turn that movement into productive action.

An example of how “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should” works can be seen in some recent capstone projects.  In recent years we have implemented systems for testing environmental estrogen-like compounds, germination assays for bacterial spores, and fermentation physiology for beer production.  In each case, the project was tailored to the skills and abilities and career goals of the student.  In each case we had to scale back the scope of the project to help students find success in the limited amount of time available.  One recent group of students in Advanced Microbiology was studying resistance and germination of various mutant strains of Bacillus thuringiensis and Bacillus cereus.  As the students in the course brainstormed about directions this could take, we continually brought the discussion back to manageable parameters with the phrase, “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should”.  We ended up with a limited project that could be completed in one semester and which resulted in posters for the students that were entered in (and won) an undergraduate research competition at another university.  Good research is more about depth of thought and analysis than breadth of work with shallow analysis and interpretation.

Even beyond the practical limitations for what we should do in research, we need to be teaching our students self-restraint when it comes to what is moral and ethical, keeping their efforts centered on what is honorable, true and right – and not just on what is possible.  If we don’t ingrain in our students the importance of using that filter to rein in big dreams for the sake of fostering edifying dreams, we are failing in McMurry’s mission to build a better leader for tomorrow.

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New Equipment, New Projects

by gwilson on Jun.21, 2010, under A Day in the Life...

fermenterAs part of the renovation this summer, our program was asked what equipment we might need to help usher in new teaching and research opportunities for our students.  We were excited to have the opportunity to evaluate what our faculty and students want to do in our labs and to adjust our equipment to allow that work to happen.

Our labs are extremely well supplied with equipment for teaching genetics and molecular biology, so this summer we will add some equipment to help us investigate cell physiology and growth.  One of those items we made sure to include was fermenters.  We ordered five.   These fermenters will allow our students to study growth of microbes.  Maybe they’ll find out how to maximize growth of oil-eating microbes, how to improve antibiotic production by bacteria they isolate (maybe one of them will come up with a new drug?!), or how to modify foods to improve their safety.  Just another example of how BIMS puts learning into action to solve world problems.

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Freshmen Study Fermentation

by gwilson on Oct.22, 2009, under Projects

fermentation tubeDr. Tom Benoit has his students taking a deeper look into a topic that all-too-many college students have a great interest in – fermentation.  As part of his BIMS 1300 Introduction to Scientific Research class, his students are not focusing on the suds-producing process of alcoholic beverage production but instead on the metabolic process of fermentation conducted by yeast cells when given a ready source of useable carbohydrate.  Benoit’s class is exploring the impact of modifying a broth medium on the fermentation rate of the common bread yeast, Saccharomyces ellipsoideus.  Students are challenged to make modifications to environmental conditions and nutrients in the growth media to see how they impact growth rates, as evidenced by the carbon dioxide production in fermentation tubes.  One group is looking at artificial sweeteners based on sugars and comparing growth to that from sucrose, as an example of the type of work being done. 

The true value of the work is not in the results they obtain – those things are already known to science.  However, they are not necessarily known to these students, and so pursuing this line of investigation helps sharpen their skills in defining a problem, posing interesting questions, designing controlled experiments, and analyzing results.  They also sharpen their lab skills by having to set up and conduct a controlled study.  Such preparation is essential to insure that they are ready for the moments in future classes when they are charged with designing experiments that delve into the unknown, whether that is in studying medical bacteria, cancer cells, gene sequences, or some other common project in the BIMS program.

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