Yesterday (Friday the 24th) concluded our third Summer Orientation And Registration (SOAR) session. We had another hundred or so students and their families on campus to learn more about how McMurry works and to set their course schedules for the fall. I got to peak in on registration numbers along the way and noted that we continued to add more students into our first BIMS courses. We are finding about one in ten incoming McMurry freshmen has an interest in BIMS. That makes BIMS one of the most popular and fastest growing majors here.
Some interesting observations so far:
- The number of students in freshman-level science courses overall is high. We have 198 registered for first year and general education Biology/BIMS courses, 51 in CS, 88 in Chemistry, 28 in Geosciences, 254 in Math and 51 in Physics. As these are mostly four-hour lab courses, this represents a significant chunk of the tuition dollars coming from science sources.
- There appear to be about three new BIMS majors for every Biology major, based on the numbers of freshmen in freshman-level courses for these majors. BIMS courses are running around 90% freshmen, while the other biology courses for majors are running about 50% freshmen.
- Enrollment in BIMS 1300 is 50% higher than it was last year. Again, it looks like the Biomedical Science major is catching on!
- There are 31 enrolled in the PREP 1105 seminar. This Pre-Professional preparation seminar helps those early-decision health professions students to get themselves ready for application and entry into professional schools like dentistry, physical therapy, medicine, and pharmacy.
So, it has been a successful summer for enrolling BIMS majors and science students overall. There is still time and space for others to join us, and we expect that our numbers will grow before the first greetings are spoken by Dr. Benoit on August 24th. We are pleased with what we’ve seen so far!
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.