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It’s Good to be Back on Campus

BCMB has met the challenges imposed by the pandemic with gusto. While research activities ramped up last fall semester, we were mostly online for classes and for conducting department business, like the rest of the world. With the rollout of vaccines and the faculty and most graduate students vaccinated by early June, we no longer staggered personnel in our laboratories and were able to interact with one another. The vaccines are safe, effective, and remain the best available protection against severe COVID-19 disease. 

 Thanks to broadly available vaccines and high vaccination rate in the faculty and graduate students, the BCMB community could resume research and teaching full speed this summer. This included hosting the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site grant in person. As part of this NSF-REU, 10 deaf and hard-of-hearing students and two hearing students interested in American Sign Language (ASL) from around the country visited UT and engaged in research projects with several of us. The feedback from this experience remains overwhelmingly positive, both from the students and the research advisors’ perspectives.

 Other bragging news includes the many BCMB graduate students who defended their MS or PhD theses and the recruitment of the largest incoming class of graduate students in recent years (a total of 17!). The departmental research faculty continues to be successful in securing grants, including prestigious ones. These successes are detailed inside the newsletter.

 In other words, the department is growing both in visibility and in productivity and continues to produce excellent instruction to our undergraduates. This growth benefits current students and alumni as it continues to add value to a degree in BCMB at UT. The BCMB faculty also continue to innovate in the undergraduate curriculum and we are now piloting or developing several new courses:

  • BCMB 200 level cell biology course with laboratory
  • BCMB 411 cell biology course for majors
  • New molecular biophysics minor that was developed by BCMB faculty members.

Biophysics degrees are typically hosted in physics departments, but BCMB has leveraged our faculty’s expertise to develop a minor in molecular biophysics in our biology BS degree. The biophysics minor provides students with foundational knowledge in molecular biophysics including current approaches to discover and design drugs against a variety of diseases.

 Our undergraduate majors continue to lead. In addition to many graduates now attending professional schools, BCMB undergraduate majors are entrepreneurial. In this issue of the newsletter, you will learn about how BCMB major Allison Campbell turned her ambition to help children with chronic health conditions into a start-up business that led her to win a first-place cash price during the spring 2021 Graves Business Plan Competition.

 As always, I am looking forward to hearing from you. Please, stay in touch and stay safe!

Gladys Alexandre
Professor and Department Head