Tag: hyunshun shin

2014 Was a Very Good Year!

by gwilson on Dec.29, 2014, under A Day in the Life...

nicole graduationAs we close out 2014, I thought it would be an appropriate time to look at the events from late in the year that demonstrate some of the accomplishments of the BIMS program.

1. Nicole McGunegle (middle left, with our Dean Alicia Wyatt and human biology professor Dr. Larry Sharp) became the sixth BIMS majors to complete Honors thesis research this year.  Her work was on heat resistance of wild type and genetically-modified spore-forming bacteria.  She was one of four Biology Department graduates in December, the others being Kelly Croci, Shayna Hoag, and Collin Valdez.  All four are pursuing advanced graduate or professional school programs (Medical School, Physician Assistant school, Optometry School, Nutrition and Dietetics graduate program).

2.  There was an official announcement that the Department of Biology was the recipient of a 160-acre tract of land in Callahan County that will serve as a field research station.  The donor is Bill Libby, long-time professor of history and religion and the founder of the Cross-Country program at McMurry.  The field station will be called Firebase Libby, in recognition of Bill’s time spent as a chaplain with the 101st Airborne in Viet Nam.  Every facet of McMurry’s biology and biomedical science programs has identified ways in which this valuable asset can be used for research and student projects.  More here:

3. On the research front, Dr. Tom Benoit received notification in December of the acceptance of an article written for the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education.  It details the use of diatomaceous earth in construction of Winogradsky columns for study of microbial ecology and mineral cycling in biological systems.  Three professors also received good news about funding for research during the Christmas break:  Dr. Anna Saghatelyan is partnering with Dr. Hyun-shun Shin of Chemistry on a project to identify new antimicrobials from area plants.  They will receive funding from the Sam Taylor Foundation.  This work includes the Honors Research of Kara Black, which was presented at the regional ACS conference this fall.  More here:  And Drs. Dana Lee and T.J. Boyle both were notified of their receipt of KIVA grants for next year, funding for research on the genomics of bats and the distribution of crabs in lakes of west Texas.

4. And most exciting has been the resurgence of the Biology Club and Tri-Beta, under the capable leadership of Drs. Boyle and Lee.  First came a very successful “Pie a Professor” fundraiser ( that provided the funding to begin an effort to greatly expand the recycling efforts on campus (  This is only the beginning of growth and contribution to the campus and community from the Biology and Biomedical Science students at McMurry.

5.  Finally, as the year ends we find a new beginning on the horizon for the Department of Biology.  Extensive revisions to the BS Biology, BS Biomedical Science, and BS Life Sciences degrees are coming!  New courses and a roadmap for the program changes are in the final stages of approval, and incoming students for the Fall 2015 semester will benefit from the tweaks being made.  A common biology core of 16 hours, including a junior seminar course to explore careers and prepare for entrance exam tests for graduate and professional programs, will be taken by all students.  We expect great things to come from these data-driven improvements!

So, from all of us at McMurry, we hope 2014 was equally productive and gratifying.  And we hope all of us will experience an even better 2015!

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Cancer Research at the Capitol

by gwilson on Feb.15, 2011, under A Day in the Life...

Whitehead_KingMcMurry involvement in cancer research was showcased recently when student Heather Whitehead presented a poster on her research at the Undergraduate Research Day at the Texas Capitol on February 14, 2011.  Texas Legislative representative for Abilene (District 71), Mrs. Susan King, stopped by to quiz Heather on her research.   King, a registered nurse, was well prepared to discuss Heather’s project from an informed position.  There were 81 posters from 53 schools at the event.  Heather’s poster, entitled “Potential Anticancer Agents targeting Arginine Biosynthesis”, was one of three invited posters from Abilene Universities.

Heather’s research targets cancer, the second most common cause of death for Americans. An estimated 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to occur among women in the US during 2010.  One of the most promising areas for the development of novel anti-cancer therapeutics is arginine biosynthesis.  L-Arginine is the substrate of  the enzyme arginase which converts it to orinithine.  Ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) then produces putrescine which is a precursor of polyamines.   Based on this evidence, the research team hypothesizes that ODC inhibitors will reduce proliferation of cancer cells. They will present synthesis of a 2-amino-5-(hydroxyimino)pentanoic acid (AHPA) and biological activity with MCF-7 cells (Michigan Cancer Foundation – 7).  The growth of MCF-7 breast cancer cells in the presence of the compound AHPA appears to be significantly reduced.   In addition, in the docking study of geometric isomers of AHPA oxime functionality, E isomer binding with ODC was determined to favorable over its Z-isomer. These results demonstrate that AHPA is a potent ODC inhibitor against cancer.   Heather will continue to synthesize new ornithine analogs with various functional groups.  Biological activities with different cancer cells will be investigated further.  Dr. Hyunshun Shin, a faculty member in the McMurry Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, supervises the research.  Dr. Spencer at the University of San Francisco has also contributed to this research.

Once again, students at McMurry stand toe-to-toe with those from the largest state universities in the quality of their educational and research experiences.  Heather plans to attend pharmacy school upon graduation this May.

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BIMS Retreat Planned for Friday August 14th

by gwilson on Aug.11, 2009, under A Day in the Life...

bimsflyergraphicThis Friday, the faculty of the Biomedical Science Program will meet for a retreat to discuss our first year of operation and plan for the year ahead.  Attending will be Tom Benoit, Heidi DiFrancesca, and Gary Wilson from Biology, Paul Pyenta from Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Alicia Wyatt from Computer Science.  Larry Sharp is on vacation and will miss the meeting.

In reviewing the first year of operation, many milestones suggest a rich and profitable future for the program.  The first year saw over 20 students declare a BIMS major, mostly incoming freshmen interested in health professions or biotech.  The new courses were very well populated.  Growing publicity from the city fathers, The Development Corporation of Abilene, the TTU School of Pharmacy, and local biotech firm Receptor Logic helped to strengthen our position as the premiere life science/biotech training program in Abilene.  Heidi DiFrancesca and Hyunshun Shin from Chemistry & Biochemistry have begun collaborating on a project to develop and test new treatments for breast cancer.  And McMurry has seen the value in promoting these endeavors through funding for equipment and supplies to support the research-in-teaching approach used in BIMS.

I’m sure some time will be spent discussing the parallel development of the biotech infrastructure in Abilene, with a variety of support facilities (including the Abilene Life Sciences Foundation Research Accelerator facility) coming on line.  Add to this the decision by Abilene Independent School District to start a new engineering/computer science high school this fall and you have converging efforts that point to a bright future.  One of the tracks possible at the new high school is biotech engineering, which Dr. Jon Weidanz from TTUHSC-School of Pharmacy and I are promoting.

So what does the future hold?  That is the reason for our retreat!  I expect that we’ll see growing commitments to link our courses together and use our BIMS lab courses to conduct research.  We’ll see BIMS-focused proposals for the lab renovation competition being held on campus later this month.  We’ll see plans for research grants and programs to help high school science teachers learn and implement new methods, techniques, and equipment into their courses.  We’ll see more articulation agreements with professional schools for pharmacy, physical therapy, and who knows what else!   Clearly, BIMS is on the move and possesses the creative firepower to transform the sciences at McMurry.  Thoughtful planning and staged implementation are keys to making that happen.

Check back in a few weeks as I give an update on the event!

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