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!
The first of three Summer Orientation And Registration (SOAR) sessions is coming up this week. Over 120 incoming freshmen will come to campus Thursday for two days of introduction to McMurry’s freshman culture, meeting with faculty associated with their chosen majors, and signing up for courses. About 10% of those students will be Biology Department majors. For them, the decisions on course selection will be among three typical freshman sequences: Anatomy & Physiology I for Nursing and Life Science majors; Botany (and possibly Unicellular Organisms) for Biology majors, and Introduction to Scientific Research (and possibly Unicellular Organisms) for BIMS majors.
Those with an interest in a pre-professional field (medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, pharmacy, etc.) will sign up for a new pre-health professions seminar to introduce them to the expectations of professional schools and give them practical experience in doing those things that make a student competitive for the admissions process. Our incoming BIMS students will take Introduction to Scientific Research (ISR) to hone their critical thinking skills as they learn to look at the world, ask important questions, and design experiments to find answers. It is a new world for those whose high school science courses were pretty much “same old, same old” approaches to science. As I’ve explained in earlier posts, BIMS is a refreshingly new approach to teaching science that whets the appetite and engages the mind to learn how life works in new and lasting ways.
More on SOAR in the weeks to come.
Starting next fall, McMurry students interested in receiving the coveted composite letter of evaluation from McMurry will be expected to enroll in a series of four pre-health professions seminars. These one-hour seminars for future doctors, dentists, veterinarians, physical therapists, and pharmacists will be taught by Dr. Larry Sharp.
Applicants to health professions schools may have submitted on their behalf letters of support from individuals or a composite letter submitted by the health committee from their college. The advantage of a composite letter is its provision of an unvarnished and comprehensive view of the student’s abilities and preparation, rather than the questionably honest perspective of the most favorable letter a student could solicit. A composite letter provides a fair and balanced view of student ability and performance. To insure our faculty have ample opportunity to see first-hand a student’s strengths and weaknesses, and to provide an environment where those positive attributes can be developed, we will encourage them to take the pre-health seminars.
The four pre-health seminars are intended to prepare students to be competitive applicants to professional schools. The first two semesters get students off on the right foot in writing personal statements, exploring the field more fully, meeting with and shadowing professionals in their chosen field, and preparing for their future entrance exams. In the second year, the returning students will serve as mentors for first-year students while taking their own preparation to the next level. More attention is paid to exposure to the field and growth as a leader. Students will participate in mock interviews, review for and take practice entrance exams, and receive other valuable experience to give them insight into health professions and the expectations of health programs needed to become a highly-sought applicant. Four semesters – two years – will be invested into the competitiveness of each student.