Tag: microbes in foods
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!
Students 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.
McMurry’s spring semester is underway and classes for Biomedical Science majors continue to draw interest from students and campus leaders. The BIMS 1300 Intro to Scientific Research course is filled beyond capacity. Taught by Dr. Wilson, students will explore what science is, how scientists work, and how the methods of science influence all of society. For instance, next week students will watch a video on the design firm IDEO and explore the basic science, applied science, engineering, and design that have gone into a variety of consumer products.
Dr. Benoit is teaching BIOL 1301 Unicellular Organisms to a healthy number of students. Their semester-long project will investigate protozoans and will culminate with identification, characterization, and photomicrography of single-celled organisms. This has proven to be a very popular and interesting class for new freshmen, and sets the stage well for a degree program filled with hands-on exploration of biomedical topics.
BIOL 3410 Microbiology is also filled to capacity and BIOL 3430 Human Physiology has a healthy enrollment. Both are part of the sophomore sequence for all BIMS majors. Dr. Wilson’s Micro course will feature lab projects looking at the microbial census of student cars, microbes in fresh foods, and viruses from the soil. As always, the focus is on learning knowledge and skills by jumping into research projects – students work as scientists to learn about microbiology. Dr. Sharp’s Human Phys will use a mixture of computer sims and hands-on biometrics to explore the workings of the human body.
Also being taught this semester is BIMS 4391 Advanced Microbiology. Dr. Wilson is leading five students on a quest to isolate and identify endospore-forming bacteria that produce antibiotics. Students will then produce the product using new benchtop fermenters and characterize the antibiotic product physically and chemically. The class is also considering a jaunt down to T-Bar-M ranch for the Spring Meeting of the Texas Branch of the American Society Microbiology, which emphasizes graduate and undergraduate research. ROAD TRIP!
Another unique feature of the BIMS program is the BIMS 4000 Junior Exam course, where students take a departmental diagnostic exam over their first two years of courses to help assess their learning to this point and to help the department assess the effectiveness of its courses in teaching fundamental information. The five students signed up for the course may take this online exam as often as needed to achieve a passing grade.
Finally, several students are engaged in capstone research this semester with Drs. Benoit and Wilson. They will be ramping up the YES assay for detecting estrogen-like compounds in environmental samples of water and soil. We’ve challenged them with developing the protocols for use on campus and developing the standard curve for the assay, then begin testing on some samples from area surface and ground waters.
So, it is a busy time for a healthy program. Bright students have chosen our unique approach to education and are thriving in the hands-on environment.