BIMS

Tag: unicellular organisms

Dr. Benoit’s “Joy of Pet Ownership”

by gwilson on Oct.18, 2013, under Projects

2013-10-18_15-43-07_756 Each year when Dr. Benoit teaches our freshman BIMS course on Unicellular Organisms, students leave with more than just knowledge and a grade….they take with them a pet.

In BIMS 1101 Unicellular Organisms Lab, Dr. Benoit takes students through an amazing tour of the unseen world, one filled with bacteria and protozoa and algae and yeast.  The course teaches basic cell biology and the diversity that exists among the smallest forms of life.  As a way of demonstrating the metabolic diversity of bacteria, all students create Winogradsky columns by filling Falcon flasks with diatomaceous earth, a variety of chemicals, and some water drawn from pond sludge (see photo).  These are the students’ pets, cared for and tended to by the students.  Dr. B encourages students to drop by the lab regularly to visit their pets and to enjoy their journey to maturation.  At the end of the semester, students are free to take them home where they can continue to mature and change for many years.

The preparation begins white usually, but chemical changes caused by a variety of bacterial turn the many minerals present into a technicolor show.  A good balance of chemicals and diversity of bacteria can result in reds and greens and blacks and yellows and purples as one species of bacteria after another transforms the minerals into colorful compounds.  It is the microbial equivalent of a garden filled with diverse plants.

As educational as the Winogradsky column is, the fun take on the project by Dr. Benoit demonstrates an important component of science at McMurry – if it isn’t fun, something is wrong!

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Adaptations

by gwilson on Aug.30, 2010, under A Day in the Life...

IMG_1181It is hard to teach lab-intensive courses without labs.  That truth is very apparent to us as we enter the second week of classes with at least another four weeks of work remaining before our labs are ready for occupancy.  Though the walls now have sheetrock and mud and tape, the work left to be done is staggering. Finish and paint, installation of doors and windows, flooring and cabinetry and equipment – all these and more are left to do to turn cold, sterile spaces into a home for science.  After all, you need an autoclave to teach microbiology; you need incubators to teach the biology of unicellular organisms.

Yet, the work of educating students continues, albeit modified.  There are adaptations galore as we find alternative activities that teach the same principles in labless spaces.  Today in BIMS 1300 Introduction to Scientific Research we saw a case in point.   The topic for the day was use of logic and the scientific method to solve mysteries and problems.  What better way to teach that than by playing Clue and Mastermind!  Students identified the variables and recognized the problems occurring when one doesn’t isolate and address them.  It became clear very quickly that careful annotation of results can help reduce possibilities and hone in on the answer.  Students enjoyed an unconventional way of approaching learning central to the work of a scientist.  Make an observation, pose a question, predict an outcome, conduct an experiment, analyze the results, and move on to the next question.  All of those elements track perfectly with the logic going into figuring out of Col. Mustard did it in the dining room with a rope.  At the conclusion of the lab, students fit their decision-making processes into the format of the scientific method.  All agreed that this was an exceptionally effective way to get a grasp of the thought processes and skills we all possess to one agree or another that enable us to interrogate nature.

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Artifacts

by gwilson on Mar.31, 2010, under A Day in the Life...

07270327If you have never been to Mesa Verde, you cannot imagine how majestic and awe-inspiring this world heritage treasure is.  It represents the most amazing collection of artifacts of a lost civilization that one can imagine. 

One of the key elements of the BIMS program is establishing for graduate programs and professional schools our own collection of artifacts to testify to the strengths and abilities of our students.  The BIMS program participates in routine assessment of student and program success.  We want to document proof of effectiveness in providing students with useful and marketable knowledge and skills, and proof that our courses are effective in meeting the program’s goals.  Our flyers for the BIMS program (see BIMS Downloads at the top of this page) outline three lines of evidence (”artifacts”) our students will have of their knowledge and abilities:

  • The biological portfolio of biological products (their personally isolated and identified strains of bacteria, proteins and other products of assays and extractions done in lab, gels and other artifacts of productivity in the lab),
  • The electronic portfolio (posters of their research, reports, digital photographs and micrographs, etc. – artifacts of their analysis and reporting to the scientific community), and
  • Their performance on the BIMS 4000 Junior Exam. 

April 5th marks the day the BIMS 4000 Junior Exam is made available to our junior students.  It consists of basic, intermediate, and advanced questions over the program goals covered in each of the freshman and sophomore courses: 

  • Intro to Scientific Research,
  • Unicellular Organisms,
  • Microbiology,
  • Human Physiology, and
  • Genetics.

Here’s a sampling of three questions students might find as they take this exam…

Means used for preserving foods and increasing their shelf life typically include
A. Acidification to prevent fungal growth
B. Addition of salt or sugar to lower the pH of the foodstuff
C. Removal of available water and addition of acids
D. Pasteurization to sterilize the foodstuff
E. More than one of these

The germ layer from which the skeletal muscles, heart, and skeleton are derived is the
A. Ectoderm
B. Mesoderm
C. Endoderm
D. Notochord

Within the same individual, some genes mutate at a much higher rate than other genes.  This is because
A. Some genes are larger than others providing a greater chance for mutation
B. Some genes have hot spots, which are locations that make them more susceptible to mutation
C. Some genes are larger than others, which prevents DNA polymerase from incorporating the incorrect base during replication
D. A and B
E. B and C

The answer for one of these is A, for one is B, and for one is C.  We’ll let you figure out which is which! :-)   Or, you can find a BIMS major and ask them for a little help.  May your artifact from these three questions match the artifact they will develop as they complete the exam!

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