We had another BUSY week in Biomedical Science courses.
- Freshman-level BIMS 1300 Intro to Scientific Research students learned how to use their Tablet PCs to gather data from a “Brain Test” all students took (determined analytical vs. creative, auditory vs. visual) and calculate standard error of the mean, as well as linear regression analysis of data sets. In the lab, students finished up their observation projects that will be presented in the coming week.
- The new microbiology course for allied health majors, BIOL 3403 Fundamentals of Microbiology participated in a webinar hosted by McMurry alumna Mary Lynn Smith (’83) on biofilms in healthcare. This was an example of how experts and professionals a thousand miles away can contribute to our students’ education.
- In BIOL 3410 Microbiology, students finished the identification of Gram positive bacteria found in their cars. They are working on research posters describing their studies and will turn those in next week. In short, they took samples from the HVAC and interior surfaces of their cars, isolated and purified bacteria, and pursued identifications of the Gram positive cocci found using conventional tests and the BD-BBL Crystal(TM) Rapid ID panels. Follow-up tests included testing for oxacillin-resistance, an indicator of community-borne MRSA.
- In BIMS 4391 Advanced Microbiology, students moved forward in their development of antibiotic-producing bacteria. They completed the identification of their endospore-formers using microscopy, conventional tests, and BD-BBL Crystal(TM) Rapid ID panels. Then, they grew their bacterium in batch culture, removed the cells and spores by centrifugation and filtration, and challenged six microbes (two Gram negative rods, two Gram positive cocci, two yeasts) with the filtrate in disk diffusion tests. Those antibiotic producers with the most promise will be grown in our new benchtop fermenters and their products characterized by chemical, physical, and physiological means to learn more.
- In our BIMS 4201 Capstone Research class, senior students began cultivating the Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain genetically-modified with human estrogen receptor as a prelude to the use of the YES assay for monitoring the presence of estrogen-mimics in the environment.
All this may sound way beyond the reach of normal college students in normal college classes. Not so! We find that students are more engaged in learning techniques and information when there’s a reason or goal – a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! It is at the heart of the skills-laden, research-rich approach taken in teaching BIMS courses.
Today was one of those days where you are drawn in a million different directions, and yet somehow manage to get it all done. I’ve had this date circled on my calendar for weeks, as I agreed to step in and cover Dr. D’s classes while she was at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in San Diego. Had it only been that simple!
Sure, I was prepared for the lab this afternoon. I should have been after Friday’s meeting with Heidi and her lab assistant Amanda, getting all the prep work done Saturday, and all my worrying yesterday. The plan was simple. Heidi and Amanda led the students in the Molecular Cell Biology lab through initial phases of a cloning project. All that remained today was purification of their PCR product, and then my part - helping them get their bacterial cultures going for the ligation and transformation steps to be done next Monday. I got the media made for them this weekend and rehydrated their strains today. Heidi gave me a last minute call from the San Diego airport to ask if everything was fine – yes, we’re good to go. Kinda reminded me of mom checking in to see how the babysitter was doing! The students did their work without incident and all work was completed ahead of schedule.
So what’s the big deal, you might ask? In the midst of it all, I had a report to generate for a state agency’s visit to campus, a prospective student and her family to speak with, several loose ends to attend to for my own class (related to the E. coli in vegetables project and the MRSA study), a SNCS meeting to plan for Thursday, preparations to follow up on for Homecoming this weekend, AND my dog needed a trip to the vet for a skin infection. I’ve never been known as being much of a multi-tasker, instead reminding folks of M.A.S.H.’s Colonel Winchester who famously said, “I do one thing, I do it well, and then I move on.” I find it hard to give my best effort when my mind is split among several needs.
The outcome? I managed to get everything done and get home early enough to empty my tail light of water (did I mention its been raining?). The student and her family were delightful, class preparation was easier than anticipated, planning for later in the week went very well, and I managed to get my faculty moving in the right general direction expected on their state agency report. My dog? Chili is now on antibiotic therapy.
Bottom line? We can do more than we think we can. Time spent helping a friend is never wasted. Everything got done without a panic, without anyone getting yelled at, without sacrificing one thing for another. I got to spend a fun afternoon with bright and talented college students, and you just can’t beat that. Maybe I’ll have to substitute more often!
Hmmm… Maybe you CAN pick your friend’s nose after all.
Our Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus study is underway, and the response has been all we hoped for! In three days we surpassed our goal of 100 samples taken from 100 students from every corner of campus. Next step? We’ll do Gram stains, catalase test, coagulase test, and confirm results using BD-Crystal Rapid ID panels to confirm Staphylococcus aureus. That will end our lab work on THIS project for the semester, but then comes the more laborious part of the project – inputting data from the surveys and lab tests, doing the statistical analysis, etc. Students this semester will end their contributions to the project by putting together their research posters in which they’ll focus in on one aspect of the study.
In the spring we’ll continue the project in two ways. First, I’ll repeat the work with McMurry faculty and staff. Second, we’ll hand over any presumed MRSA strains to students in another course who will do the DNA sequencing necessary to confirm the presence of the mecA gene – the “gold standard” in MRSA confirmation. How ironic that the project starts with swabbing the nose and ends with a “gold standard”.
We also have a student whose Honors project involves surveying environmental surfaces for MRSA, so we’ll have a full profile of MRSA on campus.
This has been a very fun and popular project that has taught my students lots of basic microbiology through involvement in an interesting and relevant research project. I could have taught it in the conventional way – but how much fun would that have been? The McMurry BIMS approach to teaching is the only way to go!
By the way, reporters don’t come out to talk with you when you teach your labs in conventional ways. So why not promote your program as you teach by doing interesting projects with your students? For more info on this project, become a fan of the BIMS Facebook page and see some of the press we received!