BIMS

Tag: food microbiology

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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Making Foods with Microbes

by gwilson on Nov.25, 2013, under Projects

DSCN4598 Students in BIMS 4491 Food Microbiology got to show off their mad skills and knowledge in a food tasting event held on campus this morning.  During the semester, students have learned about foodborne illnesses and food safety, food spoilage and food production using microbes.  Everyone earned their food handling certificate and did safety sampling of college student kitchens.  Today marked the end of their first major project – production of foods using microbes.  Each student was charged with producing two different foods (that could not be the products of the same microbe).  Our end result was a menu of chocolates and cheeses, pickles and sauerkraut and kimchi, wines and mead and ginger ale, and much more.  The campus community was invited, a television news camera crew arrived, students explained the lengths they went through to make safe, tasty foods.  By all accounts, the event was a hit and impressed everyone who attended.

If learning isn’t fun, something’s wrong.  If what goes in your head doesn’t apply to life around you something’s wrong.  This project attacked both of those head-on to give our students fun, applicable knowledge and skills.

Next up for these students?  Creating a guide entitled “Guide to Safety in the Kitchen for College Students”.  More on that later!

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What’s for Supper?

by gwilson on Nov.06, 2013, under Projects

DSCN4566Students in BIMS 4491 Food Microbiology are deep into a semester of eye-opening surprises.  Besides learning the significance of acronyms like HACCP, AOAC, USDA-APHIS, and the like, there has been a tourist’s journey through the microbes used for making foods and those responsible for spoilage.  Students have presented case studies on outbreaks of foodborne illnesses from botulism in canned hotdog chili sauce to shigellosis at an upscale hotel.  Around every corner there has been a new dimension of how vast the importance of food safety and how costly it is when problems arise.

The first major project for the class has been the production of foods using microbes.  From ginger ale to sauerkraut to chocolate, from sourdough bread to cheeses to wines, the class is assembling an impressive array of microbial products for human consumption.  A campus-wide reception and “tasting” is scheduled for Thanksgiving week, where a booklet of recipes (complete with a description of the microbes and processes responsible) will be available for our guests.

Today marks the launch of another project.  Our students will be headed to college student kitchens to do safety analysis and sampling.  Every student in the class had to obtain their food handler safety certification, so things they learned there about safe kitchens will be combined with things learned in class to analyze safety and the practices of college students in their home kitchens.  A kitchen user survey and kitchen layout schematic will help Food Micro identify critical points where cross contamination can occur or where safe practices are not being followed (raw meats stored above leftovers in the fridge?).  Contact plates of specialized media and swab sample retrieval kits will be used to test cutting boards, floors, countertops, refrigerator shelves, and a variety of other kitchen surfaces.  When combined, the results will provide a snapshot of the status of kitchen safety for the average college student.  When the data is analyzed, the class will undertake their final class project – writing a guide to safe kitchens for college students.  As with our other BIMS classes, we aim to put a practical and useful product together from our semester’s efforts.

There is nothing quite like exposing your students to the way their field is put into practice.  There is nothing quite as personal or practical to a student’s education as being the one using knowledge from a course to inform others on how to improve their personal safety.  In this way, BIMS 4491 Food Microbiology is demonstrating the great value of learning and applying what is learned for the benefit of others.

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