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!
Here are some things that are happening in the BIMS program this summer.
1. BIMS 1300. Introduction to Scientific Research is the first BIMS course taken by freshmen. It is an introduction to thinking about science in a different way – science as a process to engage in, not a bunch of facts to memorize. Dr. Tom Benoit is busy this summer adjusting its approach based on last year’s initial version to make it even more successful. The seminar portion will be completely re-done to expose students to what’s new in biomedical sciences around the world.
2. BIOL 1301. Unicellular Organisms is Dr. Benoit’s other course this fall. The course is so unique that finding an appropriate textbook is difficult. Expect the course to adjust its approach slightly to focus more on how cells work in order to emphasize what’s common to unicellular organisms, rather than on differences between various species.
3. BIOL 3410. Dr. Wilson is completely re-doing Microbiology this summer. The lecture will be aligned more closely with the textbook to help students study for exams, and the lab will feature 4-5 research projects within which all skills and knowledge for the lab portion of the course will be taught. Two projects will be a survey of fresh foods for the presence of coliforms and a survey of McMurry students for the presence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
4. BIOL 3460. Genetics will jump into high gear this year as Dr. Heidi DiFrancesca begins to orient students to the use of molecular biology technology at our disposal. Expect use of the DNA sequencer and rt-PCR in the lab.
5. BIMS 4320 and BIMS 4250. Junior and senior level BIMS courses will benefit from new equipment to support student research projects, and from a year of maturity in the program. Dr. D had students get the lab going last year and took baby steps in bringing it up to full capacity. This year we’ll hit the ground running.
6. BIMS 4201. The capstone course has been restructured to allow students to sign up with a BIMS faculty member to work on a project in their area of expertise. We can expect a wider variety of research projects this year as students join the research in their areas of interest. Cancer research, genetic engineering, bacterial spore physiology, and public health should all be represented by the end of the year.
The BIMS faculty will hold a retreat this summer to focus and connect our efforts. More updates will be coming on other aspects of BIMS improvements made this summer.