BIMS

Tag: Staphylococcus aureus

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!

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Snot for Science

by gwilson on Oct.09, 2009, under Projects

DSCN3196

Hmmm… Maybe you CAN pick your friend’s nose after all.

Our Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus study is underway, and the response has been all we hoped for!  In three days we surpassed our goal of 100 samples taken from 100 students from every corner of campus.  Next step?  We’ll do Gram stains, catalase test, coagulase test, and confirm results using BD-Crystal Rapid ID panels to confirm Staphylococcus aureus.  That will end our lab work on THIS project for the semester, but then comes the more laborious part of the project – inputting data from the surveys and lab tests, doing the statistical analysis, etc.  Students this semester will end their contributions to the project by putting together their research posters in which they’ll focus in on one aspect of the study.

In the spring we’ll continue the project in two ways.  First, I’ll repeat the work with McMurry faculty and staff.  Second, we’ll hand over any presumed MRSA strains to students in another course who will do the DNA sequencing necessary to confirm the presence of the mecA gene – the “gold standard” in MRSA confirmation.  How ironic that the project starts with swabbing the nose and ends with a “gold standard”.

We also have a student whose Honors project involves surveying environmental surfaces for MRSA, so we’ll have a full profile of MRSA on campus. 

This has been a very fun and popular project that has taught my students lots of basic microbiology through involvement in an interesting and relevant research project.  I could have taught it in the conventional way – but how much fun would that have been?  The McMurry BIMS approach to teaching is the only way to go!

By the way, reporters don’t come out to talk with you when you teach your labs in conventional ways.  So why not promote your program as you teach by doing interesting projects with your students?  For more info on this project, become a fan of the BIMS Facebook page and see some of the press we received!

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1-2-3’s of IRBs

by gwilson on Aug.07, 2009, under A Day in the Life..., Projects

staph bacitracin mannitoStudents in my Microbiology class this fall have a treat in store.  Instead of disconnected labs to teach the main principles of aseptic technique and identifying bacteria, students in this course are going to learn by doing research.  I have planned five research projects the student research teams will undertake:  conducting an air quality survey of campus buildings, screen fresh vegetables and fruits for E. coli, search for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on campus, isolate endospore-formers and their bacteriophage from nature, and have groups design and conduct a research study of their own using the knowledge and skills learned.

One of these represents a first for our students – the MRSA study.  Our plan is to obtain nasal swabs from around 100 students on campus and compare the frequency of Staphylococcus aureus (SA) and MRSA among groups and with previous reports nationally.  Student research groups will collect nasal swabs and screen for SA and MRSA, identifying the most interesting isolates using our BD Crystal(TM) Rapid ID system.  They will analyze the data from a survey of participants and the results from the lab to see if on-campus residents differ in SA/MRSA occurence from off-campus residents, athletes vs. non-athletes, etc.  The results should be interesting!

Because we will be doing research involving human subjects, special approval is required from the campus oversight group:  the Institutional Review Board, or IRB.  Their job is to review proposed campus research to make sure it is ethical, responsible, and conforms to national standards for acceptable scientific research.  It is a first for me, since my lab research is typically environmentally-focused (bacteria don’t have to give informed consent!).    The “homework” required for the IRB is extensive – several federal reports and statutes to review, an online course through NIH for certification of training (yes, I missed a question!), and then a form  that asks all the hard questions needed to insure the research is well-thought, useful, and safe for all.  Reading the prescribed materials, thinking through how the project was structured in light of the training, going through the NIH course, and filling out the form took me the better part of three days. 

This bunny trail has been educational and informative, so much so that I’ll have all the Microbiology students go through the online training before they start the study in late September.  To know the trouble our scientific community goes through to protect the rights and dignity of its individuals is eye-opening and reassuring.  Sometimes things of great educational benefit are not on the main thoroughfares of our courses.  Oh, and ask those college sophomores you know whether they’ve done anything as exciting as this in their science classes!

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