Tag: undergraduate research
BIMS faculty met last week with our VP in charge of facilities (Brad Poorman) and campus architect (Rick Weatherl) to discuss preliminary plans for this summer’s BIMS lab renovation. Mainly, the meeting was to determine whether the rough layout of spaces as proposed would accommodate the course and program needs.
The layout calls for two labs to fit in the space where the freshman biology, microbiology, and student research lab behind Dr.Beasley’s office are now located. Going into those spaces would be a molecular lab, the micro lab, and between them would be a student project room where the microscopes, incubators, refrigerators/freezers, and other equipment would be found. The intent is for this space to become the place students go to check their results and do off-hours work on projects. By moving these functions out of the labs themselves, students can do their follow-up work while other classes are in session in the labs. Since our courses are becoming more research oriented, this move will allow extended student involvement in research projects instead of corralling those activities into three hour blocks once a week. Labs will also be made more lecture-friendly so that both lab and lecture can take place in the same location – moving in and out of lab and lecture functions seamlessly will now be possible. More flexibility, more utility will result from these modifications.
Other first-floor spaces will also be affected. The prep area and S108 classroom (where Biology lectures are frequently taught) will house an upgraded prep area and an instrumentation room for our research microscopes, DNA sequencer, and other specialized equipment. The freshman lab will be moved to the current location for the molecular lab (S115), which will be expanded and feature more storage space. These changes will make the BIMS and freshman labs and support areas the showcase on campus for what all science facilities will some day feature – thoughtful, flexible, and student-friendly spaces for engaging students in learning and practicing science for the 21st Century.
Students 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!
In January 2007, McMurry’s President, Dr. John Russell, charted out a bold plan for McMurry’s future. The plan is called Vision 2023 and calls for McMurry to become a regional leader in science education and science teacher preparation. A central component of this vision was the call for curricular and pedagogical innovation, and the provision of spaces and resources in support of these changes. The text of President Russell’s presentation can be found at: http://www.mcm.edu/newsite/web/univ_relations/univ_update.htm
The first major step in transforming spaces for innovation in teaching and research is not far away. McMurry science faculty have been invited to participate in a competition this August to propose renovated spaces to enable curricular and pedagogical innovation. Teams of faculty from a variety of departments are readying their concepts of what McMurry lab spaces might look like for supporting exciting new ways of teaching and learning. Judging the competition will be board members, cabinet members and others who will match the vision for science spaces with Dr. Russell’s vision for the future. The winning proposal will be funded with renovation anticipated to start next summer. The other proposals will provide ideas for Advancement to use in soliciting funds for support of the sciences. A recap of the competition and overview of each proposal will be the topic of a future entry on this page.
So what will a successful proposal look like? It will call for new ways of teaching that are research-rich and skills-laden, and ask for formation of spaces that enable these changes. It will focus on what a McMurry graduate should know and have the ability to do to be successful in the workforce and professions of 2023. It will broaden research opportunities for faculty and their students so that students are citizens of science rather than tourists. It takes a first bold step on the journey from the past perspectives of science and spaces where they are taught into science for tomorrow’s student and professional in an ever-changing world.