This summer the Biomedical Science program was able to purchase several new pieces of equipment to support teaching of genetics and molecular biology courses. Most notable, our aging Bio-Rad MyCycler thermocycler has a new partner-in-crime, a Bio-Rad real-time PCR thermocycler that will add capability for teaching and research. Additionally, a new Bio Tek Ultra Microplate spectrophotometer and Nanodrop microvolume analyzer will help in analysis of samples. We have two additional tissue culture hoods on order which will replace one old biological safety cabinet and add capacity for additional student work. Chemistry was also able to purchase a gel documentation system. Add to those the Hermle centrifuge obtained in May and it is clear the capabilities of our faculty and students has been significantly upgraded over the past six months.
So how was this done during trying economic times by a university that is not wealthy? Several contributing factors made this possible. First, budget decisions are based on assessment results. BIMS faculty have been careful to document the weaknesses of students through the years and make a strong case for expenditures to improve teaching and learning. They also have demonstrated how the purchases have led to gains in student performance, both through gains in Major Field Test scores and also in student involvement in research opportunities. The research-rich curriculum of BIMS courses helps justify funding through departmental budget allocations and capital funds that have to be spent on capital items. Second, the curricular innovation provided by the BIMS major supports President Russell’s Vision 2023 call for enhanced research for students and faculty, relevant programs, and attention to graduating students competitive for jobs of the next 20 years. Also, funds provided by generous donors to the Imagine – Shaping the Future Capital Campaign have helped supply some of the funding not provided by other means. When you are doing exciting things aligned with the vision and goals, and your efforts support the strategic plan, appreciative administrations are more likely to reward you!
Who wins? McMurry’s students! Their success is why we are here!
We’re entering the mid-summer period where the wind-down from the spring semester collides head-on with the spool-up for the fall semester. Things are busy on campus. Here’s a sampling:
- The first SOAR is over and the second one is next week. SOARs are events for incoming students to go through orientation and get their class schedules worked out for the fall. We had 120 students make McMurry their college home a week or so ago. Over 100 more incoming freshmen are scheduled to be on campus next week. They are the smart ones, as waiting for the third SOAR or to register at the beginning of the semester means risking closed classes and schedule conflicts. I mentioned in a comment that roughly 10% of students at the first SOAR signed up for the initial BIMS course. Looks like it will be a great start for Year Two of BIMS.
- Summer research is well underway. Dr. Paul Pyenta has been working with a Welch Summer Research student to clone gfp protein into a plasmid compatible with Bacillus thuringiensis. They’ve been using the new centrifuge mentioned in a recent post, but found the need to spin 250 ml bottles at a high speed than is possible with the swinging bucket rotor we got with it. Another centrifuge and modified procedure will have to suffice until we can purchase another rotor more suitable to the speeds required by the original protocol.
- Dr. Pyenta ordered a new digital gel documentation system today that will allow clear photography of gels for publication and presentation. This is a valuable piece of equipment for helping students build their biological portfolios – artifacts from their hands-on lab work will be collected and saved to document their proficiency.
- Dr. Tom Benoit taught Microbiology in Summer 1 and now is working on a proposal for the lab renovation competition McMurry will hold in August. Science faculty were encouraged to propose innovative spaces for teaching and research for the competition, which will see the winning entry adopted to guide a lab renovation project to take place in Summer 2010. Two labs and support spaces will be renovated to provide a model of future spaces to be seen in the Finch-Gray Science Center. BIMS intends to have the best proposal for consideration.
- Dr. Heidi DiFrancesca has spent time this summer traveling. No word yet whether she will join her husband Mark on a trip to Japan on behalf of their church. One additional task Dr. D will accomplish this summer is purchase of the next important pieces of teaching/research equipment: real-time PCR, Nanodrop spectrophotometer, new tissue culture hoods, and more.
- Dr. Larry Sharp has been busy overseeing applications to health professions schools – medical and dental, mainly. He us also teaching both A&P I and II this summer, all while designing the new Pre-Health Professions Seminar series to be taken by our pre-health students.
- Dr. Gary Wilson has been juggling administrative duties with an overhaul of his microbiology course and some development work for his software package VirtualUnknown(TM) Microbiology. A new totally online version of the software is in development.
- BIMS faculty plan to hold a retreat this summer to assess what worked this year and what needs “tweaking” as the BIMS program enters its second year. One item for discussion is how we can intentionally link courses together through common projects so that we work together in research as our students learn. We got a great start on that this year, but more can be done.
No doubt, it is a busy summer in Abilene!
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.