Tag: Jon Weidanz
McMurry’s Biomedical Sciences Program is blessed to have a wonderful working relationship with Abilene’s premiere biotech company, Receptor Logic. This company is rather new to Abilene but has profoundly changed the industrial landscape of the city. Their pioneering work in the development of T-cell receptor mimics for therapeutic purposes places them in rarified air as one of the few places internationally where such technology is being developed and tested. The close friendship between RL’s founder, Dr. Jon Weidanz, and McMurry’s BIMS faculty has enabled the placement of McMurry students at RL facilities in the Abilene Life Sciences Accelerator for capstone projects that provide valuable real-world experience.
This semester, McMurry has three students working with RL’s scientists. Lauren Bump, recipient of the Danny Cooley Award as the outstanding BIMS student, is completing her Honors research in the lab. Her research will culminate in an Honors thesis this written and defended in December. In this, she will demonstrate the knowledge and skills picked up in BIMS and applied in T-cell work done at RL.
Karlie Dieterich is working at RL this fall to gain experience in immunological research as she applies to graduate programs in immunology. She was encouraged to visit with Dr. Weidanz, an immunologist, to discuss strong programs and career directions. The meeting resulted in her joining his lab as an undergraduate to give her some practical experience in the field. As an Academic All-Conference athlete and top science student, she is living proof that the high level of achievement seen in top athletes often spills over to high achievement in all arenas of life.
Malaney Lopez has extensive experience in the molecular lab, having been one of the prime resources as an undergraduate assistant for prepping and delivering molecular-based courses at McMurry last year. She wanted to hone her skills and give back to RL by volunteering this year without any course credit expected. Her love for molecular work is evident and her future in the field is assured.
In each case, the generosity of Receptor Logic and their commitment to contributing to the education of future biotech scientists is demonstrated. We cannot begin to express our thanks to Receptor Logic and Dr. Weidanz for their contributions to the education of our students.
One of the key elements of the BIMS program and its approach to giving students an experience-rich education was the intent to have all students complete a capstone experience. We felt many students would opt for on-campus projects with faculty but that some would take advantage of opportunities with summer research programs and biotech companies to apply their skills and knowledge in different settings. With the resources of the TTU School of Pharmacy’s graduate program in Abilene and biotech firms like Receptor Logic settling in here, it was only a matter of time before a student would complete their capstone work at one of those two venues. However, with a program only two years old, we felt it would be at least another year before this happened. Biology major Gina Ortiz surprised us all by choosing a BIMS capstone experience and working with TTU School of Pharmacy scientists this spring. She thereby becomes the first BIMS capstone student, and the first to complete the work in collaboration with an outside agency.
Ortiz, a Nevada resident, is headed for a career in medicine or biomedical research and used this experience to further hone in a direction to follow once she graduates this May – a year early. Her work was done at the School of Pharmacy in the lab of Dr. Jon Weidanz with direct supervision from his doctoral student Bhavna Verma. Her project was entitled “Biodistribution of RL4B TCRm antibody in mice models”. In her work, Gina became proficient in conducting enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) to screen whether therapeutic T-cell receptor mimics (TCR-m) used for fighting cancer tumors might target and bind healthy mouse tissues. Such information would be valuable in completing an overall picture of how TCR-mimics impact the biology of a patient when used in treatment.
Gina explained her research on Friday, April 30th before a group of students and faculty. Among them was McMurry’s president, Dr. John Russell, who was impressed by the quality of work and polish of her presentation. On behalf of all in BIMS, congratulations Gina on a job well done!
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.