Tag: Texas A&M University
Campus architect Rick Weatherl brought the floorplan for the lab renovation by yesterday for me to review. We are at the stage where we know pretty well where the walls will be. Now we have to figure out how to make those spaces as efficient and effective as possible for course delivery. We’ve gone from what the spaces might look like to now having to consider how do we make them work.
One feature we chose to include in our design was a concept first seen at a Project Kaleidoscope facilities conference at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. UST had just completed a $39M building and hosted the meeting to show off their facilities. Being a microbiologist, I’ve always been on the lookout for effective lab designs that would work for my courses. Their microbiology lab had several features I thought particularly useful, and when combined with some of the things I liked best about the Texas A&M lab renovation from my time there gave me an overall approach to the new labs that we all believe will help us deliver exciting and effective courses.
In particular, we wanted our labs to allow faculty and student research. So, we developed spaces for students to set up projects (see PROJ at left) that would not interfere with other courses being taught in the same lab (a UST feature). We also wanted an anteroom where students could come and check on their cultures and do day-to-day work while other labs were in session (an A&M feature, see PREP at left). And we wanted our labs to be useful not just for hands-on labwork but also to be comfortable enough to also serve as our lecture space (a UST feature). We are adding a few ideas of our own – flat panel TV/monitors on the walls instead of digital projectors for greater definition when projecting bacterial images; cardswipe entry to allow students into zones of the spaces for conducting research after-hours. We’ve also decided printing out research posters (our students often do this as their lab report format) makes little sense when they can be fed by computer into flat panel monitors on the walls in the halls. So, our labs will be high-tech and versatile. As our architect put it, “When someone walks into the front doors of our building, those flat panels would scream, ’science is going on here’.” No longer will this be a static, lifeless place.
It is exciting to be part of this transformation of spaces. But it is even more exciting to be part of a program that is fearless about trying new approaches to find what works to build student learning. The spaces are different for a reason and purpose because our programs are different for a reason and purpose.
This spring Colin will walk the stage to end his college career with a handshake and diploma, and thus beginning the next phase of his life. In many ways, Colin represents the very best of a college education at a university where students are more than ID numbers and test scores.
Colin came to McMurry a number of years ago and found mixed academic success. Frustrated, he left and joined the Marines, serving his nation admirably. Upon completion of his active service, Colin returned and rededicated himself to success in preparing for medical education.
Something is different this time around, and I believe I know what it is. Colin has involved himself in research-rich experiences. He began working several years ago with Dr. Carol McClelland, an adjunct faculty member (PhD from Colorado State and former student in my microbiology course at Texas A&M) who wanted a place to hang her hat and continue in her NIH fellowship research. Carol is an Abilenian originally and wanted to be close to home while her husband was deployed with the Air Force. She got Colin involved in hands-on research and suddenly things started to click. Later, when Carol’s family moved to California, Colin jumped into research-rich courses to work with other BIMS faculty. The result has been something to pin his knowledge on, something to translate theoretical into concrete. Now he “gets it” and he’s prepared for life after McMurry.
I saw Colin this week and he informed me that he has been accepted into a graduate program in molecular pathology this fall. Another success story.
More and more students will experience the same success in the BIMS program because the research-rich curriculum picks at a student’s curiosity and engages them in learning in ways that differ from seat time in a lecture course, or canned experiments conducted in the lab. The “BIMS Way” works!