Tag: undergraduate research
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.
We’re entering the mid-summer period where the wind-down from the spring semester collides head-on with the spool-up for the fall semester. Things are busy on campus. Here’s a sampling:
- The first SOAR is over and the second one is next week. SOARs are events for incoming students to go through orientation and get their class schedules worked out for the fall. We had 120 students make McMurry their college home a week or so ago. Over 100 more incoming freshmen are scheduled to be on campus next week. They are the smart ones, as waiting for the third SOAR or to register at the beginning of the semester means risking closed classes and schedule conflicts. I mentioned in a comment that roughly 10% of students at the first SOAR signed up for the initial BIMS course. Looks like it will be a great start for Year Two of BIMS.
- Summer research is well underway. Dr. Paul Pyenta has been working with a Welch Summer Research student to clone gfp protein into a plasmid compatible with Bacillus thuringiensis. They’ve been using the new centrifuge mentioned in a recent post, but found the need to spin 250 ml bottles at a high speed than is possible with the swinging bucket rotor we got with it. Another centrifuge and modified procedure will have to suffice until we can purchase another rotor more suitable to the speeds required by the original protocol.
- Dr. Pyenta ordered a new digital gel documentation system today that will allow clear photography of gels for publication and presentation. This is a valuable piece of equipment for helping students build their biological portfolios – artifacts from their hands-on lab work will be collected and saved to document their proficiency.
- Dr. Tom Benoit taught Microbiology in Summer 1 and now is working on a proposal for the lab renovation competition McMurry will hold in August. Science faculty were encouraged to propose innovative spaces for teaching and research for the competition, which will see the winning entry adopted to guide a lab renovation project to take place in Summer 2010. Two labs and support spaces will be renovated to provide a model of future spaces to be seen in the Finch-Gray Science Center. BIMS intends to have the best proposal for consideration.
- Dr. Heidi DiFrancesca has spent time this summer traveling. No word yet whether she will join her husband Mark on a trip to Japan on behalf of their church. One additional task Dr. D will accomplish this summer is purchase of the next important pieces of teaching/research equipment: real-time PCR, Nanodrop spectrophotometer, new tissue culture hoods, and more.
- Dr. Larry Sharp has been busy overseeing applications to health professions schools – medical and dental, mainly. He us also teaching both A&P I and II this summer, all while designing the new Pre-Health Professions Seminar series to be taken by our pre-health students.
- Dr. Gary Wilson has been juggling administrative duties with an overhaul of his microbiology course and some development work for his software package VirtualUnknown(TM) Microbiology. A new totally online version of the software is in development.
- BIMS faculty plan to hold a retreat this summer to assess what worked this year and what needs “tweaking” as the BIMS program enters its second year. One item for discussion is how we can intentionally link courses together through common projects so that we work together in research as our students learn. We got a great start on that this year, but more can be done.
No doubt, it is a busy summer in Abilene!
We took delivery yesterday on a new high-speed centrifuge. Our old one, purchased in 1996, put on quite a fireworks display a month or so ago and had to be put out to pasture. The new one allows us to diversify our work a bit – swinging bucket rotor for 1 ml tubes, capacity for 250 ml bottles, etc.
The centrifuge is just one of several purchases to be made this summer – a Nanodrop spectrophotometer, another tissue culture hood, gel documentation system. They follow a monumental year at McMurry in which we received a Li-COR GEMF Grant for a DNA sequencer, and purchased a variety of new equipment to outfit the molecular biology, genetics, and microbiology effort of the BIMS program. As mentioned in an earlier post, we want our graduates to have experience with the equipment they will encounter in research, in medicine, in the workplace. Hands-on experience teaches much better than theory on a chalkboard.
Our desire to impact “every student, every day” means these instruments will be used in a variety of classes by every student – not just a privileged few who go the extra mile in one-on-one research with faculty. McMurry believes in the direction the BIMS program is headed and is willing to invest, even when times are tough.