BIMS

Tag: SNCS

Substitute Teacher

by gwilson on Oct.12, 2009, under A Day in the Life...

Chili the Wonder DogToday 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!

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Pooling Resources, Creating Opportunities

by gwilson on Mar.23, 2009, under A Day in the Life..., Projects, Students

endospore21This spring, Dr. Paul Pyenta has his Biochemistry II students diverging from the normal course of lab exercises.  In doing so, he is accomplishing three things:  teaching the techniques and knowledge of the course in a new and engaging way, giving his students exposure to how research is done, and keeping his personal involvement in research going.

About two years ago, a conversation between Pyenta and two Biology faculty exposed a problem he was equipped to tackle.  Drs Wilson and Benoit are microbiologists who study the spores of Bacillus thuringiensis.  Bt, as it is called, is mostly known for its production of a toxin that is selectively toxic for the larvae of several damaging insect pests.  During Wilson’s doctoral research, an interesting observation was made – the spores made in the soil seem better suited to survival in insects, and the spores made in insects seem better suited to survival in the soil.  This has spurred a desire to study the ecology of the organism more closely, and led Benoit to propose an experiment to follow the fate of individual spores through susceptible and non-susceptible insects.  But, with Bt spores so small, no convenient way was available to do the experiment.

Enter Dr. Pyenta.  In conversation, it was decided that spores and cells expressing green fluorescent protein (gfp) could be used to follow the spores through the insect. Only problem – no appropriate gfp-containing Bt strains existed.  All previous cloning of gfp in Bt was done to follow the presence of the crystal protein in nature, in genetically modified foods and the like.  Their discussion led to a proposal - Pyenta proposed that his lab could clone the gfp gene into Bt so that a visible marker was present to detect the fate of spores.

The cloning work has been conducted for the past two years by undergraduate students doing independent research for Pyenta.  It has gone slowly, as many quirks make cloning into Bt not possible by use of traditional methods commonly used.  Progress made so far has moved the project to the point where students in his Biochem II lab are equipped to use the lessons learned to tackle the project this semester.  In doing this, students get to see how the skills and knowledge of their regular course can actually be put into action on a real research project. 

One of the frustrations science faculty face at small colleges is finding time to remain active in research.  Expecting similar productivity to that achieved when one was a member of a research team working full-time on a project funded by a national agency is foolishness.  Instead, faculty must find creative ways to keep their skills up, perform experiments in economical and efficient ways, and use available resources wisely.  Dr. Pyenta is accomplishing these things by teaching his course through involving students in his research (instead of relying on a bunch of unrelated and seemingly random canned exercises leading nowhere), by conducting the work within the parameters of his normal teaching load, and by pooling resources through collaboration with other faculty on a project of common interest.

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...