One of the hallmarks of medical education is the concept of “watch, do, teach” – watch a procedure, do the procedure, teach the procedure – as a way to grow knowledge and skill in future doctors. That same approach was used this week as Charlie Troxel from Li-Cor in Nebraska visited the BIMS labs to help McMurry faculty improve their skills with their DNA sequencer. McMurry’s sequencer has been in service since 2008, but changes in personnel and projects necessitated some training upgrades. McMurry faculty used PCR to amplify their target DNA and loaded the sequencer on Wednesday afternoon. Fourteen hours later, the sequencing was done and teacher and students reconvened in the BIMS lab to observe the results. Several software packages allowed the participants to evaluate the confidence of each base sequenced and provided ways to align sequences to test their consistency. Pointers were given on how best to proceed with the plant samples Banks will analyze for Dr. Anna this summer as a part of a project to study genetic drift between specimens of a species collected in Old World and New World ecosystems. The Li-Cor 4300 will get quite a workout between now and the end of the year.
That explains the “Watch” and “Do” activities. The “Teach” component comes this fall as Banks puts the instrument to work teaching her Molecular Cell Biology Lab students how to do sequencing and analysis. Nice.
Last Thursday I met with the provost from Cisco College’s local campus, Richard Burdine from the Development Corporation of Abilene, and Jon Weidanz from TTU School of Pharmacy and the biotech firm Receptor Logic to discuss the new biotech certificate program recently approved for Cisco College. Our goal was to see how our individual entities could cooperate to help build a biotech workforce in Abilene sufficient to support the growing biotech industry here. Topics discussed were equipment needs and labspace for the new program, an articulation agreement between Cisco’s biotech certificate and McMurry’s biomedical science program, internship possibilities in town, and a general update on the infrastructure being developed for recruiting additional biotech companies.
So what was the outcome? I promised to take a quick inventory of unusued equipment at McMurry and see if we had some items that might be useful to them. For instance, I know we have a sequencing gel that is no longer needed because of our Li-COR DNA sequencer, and I know we have a biological safety cabinet that is no longer needed downstairs and appears to be unneeded upstairs either. There may be other items here and there we can add in from their list. Secondly, I’m in conversation with our faculty about how the Cisco courses fit with our offerings to develop an articulation agreement that will give Cisco’s certified biotech graduates a head-start on a four-year degree at McMurry. And, we’ve continued to solidify the BIMS program as the premiere program for producing bachelors’ prepared biotech employees.
Another meeting is set for next month – I’ll give a further update then.
We took delivery yesterday on a new high-speed centrifuge. Our old one, purchased in 1996, put on quite a fireworks display a month or so ago and had to be put out to pasture. The new one allows us to diversify our work a bit – swinging bucket rotor for 1 ml tubes, capacity for 250 ml bottles, etc.
The centrifuge is just one of several purchases to be made this summer – a Nanodrop spectrophotometer, another tissue culture hood, gel documentation system. They follow a monumental year at McMurry in which we received a Li-COR GEMF Grant for a DNA sequencer, and purchased a variety of new equipment to outfit the molecular biology, genetics, and microbiology effort of the BIMS program. As mentioned in an earlier post, we want our graduates to have experience with the equipment they will encounter in research, in medicine, in the workplace. Hands-on experience teaches much better than theory on a chalkboard.
Our desire to impact “every student, every day” means these instruments will be used in a variety of classes by every student – not just a privileged few who go the extra mile in one-on-one research with faculty. McMurry believes in the direction the BIMS program is headed and is willing to invest, even when times are tough.