Tag: Gary Wilson
The horrible disaster in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the explosion and sinking of the BP oil platform is all over the news. Devastation to the landscape and wildlife all along the Gulf Coast is sure to be a topic of discussion for months and years to come. Lawsuits will be in the headlines, and government finger-pointing is going to part of coming elections. How could such a thing happen? How can such pervasive damage be repaired?
News videos for the past two weeks have shown use of booms, human hair, and chemical dispersants to try to minimize the amount of oil reaching shore. However, little has been said about the use of microbes to help digest the oil and remove it from the water and shoreline. One amazing fact about microbes is that when it comes to the versatility of their metabolism and their physiological capabilities, there are few organic chemicals that one or another critter can’t break down. Oil included. For example, the Exxon Valdez mess was cleaned up in part using oil-eating bacteria.
You might say – “Getting rid of oil coating the shoreline and contaminating the environment? There’s an app for that!”
Both of McMurry’s microbiologists, Drs. Tom Benoit and Gary Wilson, have experience in the use of microbes to remove oil and other hydrocarbons from contaminated soil and water. Benoit has extensive involvement in reducing hydrocarbon contaminants from water. In fact, he helped design a facility for the City of Nacogdoches (TX) that removes such pollutants from wastewater entering its sewage treatment facility. It uses microbes to destroy harmful chemicals that would choke the sewage treatment plant and slow return of treated wastewater to the environment. Wilson worked with a local electricity provider to help reduce the hydrocarbon counts in contaminated soil by more than 90% to significantly reduce the cost of disposal. In both instances, encouraging the growth of harmless microbes that devour oil and other organic compounds in the water and soil helped protect the environment. Chances are, students in BIMS courses this fall will find themselves doing research to try to maximize the effectiveness of similar organisms in eliminating crude oil-based pollution.
You may not be able to download the magic microbes as an app for your iPhone, but microbiology provides an answer to some of life’s trickiest problems.
Happy 2010! May this be the best year ever in all your pursuits. May you grow intellectually, socially, spiritually, and in maturity – all while experiencing outstanding health! Make 2009 envious and intimidate 2011 by how 2010 brought great memories and great investments into your body, mind, and spirit!
At McMurry, the BIMS faculty are ready to do our part to help this wish for the coming year come true. Hard to believe this is only the second New Years observed by the BIMS program. Dr. Benoit, Dr. DiFrancesca, Dr. Sharp, Dr. Pyenta, and I all expect the maturing of the BIMS program during 2010 to bring greater courses, greater research projects in your labs, greater opportunities for you, and closer relationships among students and faculty as we grow into the vision upon which this program was built. New courses, fine tuning of the curriculum, new relationships with biotech firms and professional schools all will provide new opportunities, experiences, and skills to fuel that growth.
Your role? Don’t bypass an opportunity to learn, to experience, to grow. Your benefit from the program is in direct proportion to your immersion in the program. So dive in, and enjoy!
We’re now about a fourth of the way through the semester, and I thought I’d give an update of what’s going on in our BIMS courses and program.
BIMS 1300. Intro to Scientific Research. Dr. Benoit has students looking at contemporary issues in science and explaining the science and processes and research to students in the class via formal presentations. Ever wonder what they’re talking about with stem cells, how DNA fingerprinting is done, how ethical breaches impact biomedical research? Stop by and you just might find your answers!
BIOL 1301. Unicellular Organisms. Dr. Benoit has had the unfortunate luck over the past few years of seeing every book chosen for this course taken out of print. He’s decided to take things into his own hands and has go with a custom published book that draws only the chapters central to his course from a larger textbook. The course is taking a decided cell anatomy and physiology focus to help prepare students for their sophomore level classes.
BIOL 3410. Microbiology. Dr. Wilson has his students screening fresh vegetables for E. coli and other enteric organisms. Next up will be their screening of the campus population for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Real science here conducted by lots of sophomores and juniors from Biology, Nursing, Biochemistry, and Biomedical Science majors.
BIOL 3460. Genetics. Dr. DiFrancesca will be missing class in mid-October to attend the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in San Diego. By then, the students will have isolated their own DNA and will be in the midst of PCR and analysis. While she’s gone, the students will have a guest lecture by Dr. Jon Weidanz of the Texas Tech School of Pharmacy in Abilene (and the founder of the biotech firm Receptor Logic) discussing the genetics of biotech research. Amazing things going on in here!
BIOL 4320. Molecular Cell Biology. Students are getting a great foundation in the fundamentals of molecular structure and control of eukaryotic cells. This course represents the content capstone for BIMS juniors, where knowledge from previous semesters is integrated into a full understanding of how cells work. Dr. DiFrancesca has got it going on in here!
BIMS 4120. Molecular Cell Biology Lab. Here, Dr. DiFrancesca builds on skills learned in Genetics the year before to provide a deep experience in molecular biology techniques. Students have not begun working with cancer cells yet but will embark on that journey before much longer. Imagine the conversation around the dinner table at Thanksgiving – “Sonny, what are you doing in your classes at McMurry?” “Well, grandma, we’re studying and trying to find cures for breast cancer.” Is that the type of thing you’d hear from average students from average schools?
So, its business as usual in the BIMS courses, all geared toward giving students real experience solving real problems. When you compare this approach to education to those from other colleges and universities, you see very quickly that we take a different approach and give our students a different experience because the futures of our students depend on doing so.