Columbia State Professors Integrate Advanced Research Methods into Biology Courses

(COLUMBIA, Tenn. – May 2, 2019) - - -Two Columbia State Community College faculty members attended a bioinformatics workshop hosted by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Dr. Elvira Eivazova, assistant professor of biology, and Michael Pollack, assistant professor of mathematics, brought back information that is enhancing the curriculum for Columbia State students.

“The Columbia State, HHMI collaboration provides an intellectually rewarding and sometimes challenging experience for both faculty and students,” Eivazova said. “During the workshop, we were introduced to new techniques and databases available exclusively at the HHMI that we implemented into our bioinformatics course this semester.”

Since implementing the new techniques, Eivazova’s students have conducted electron microscopy research at Middle Tennessee State University and presented it at the American Society for Microbiology spring meeting hosted that the Columbia State Williamson Campus. The student’s research has been logged in the National Center for Biotechnology Information database, which is open to the entire national and international scientific community. The electron microscopy research allowed students to identify the morphology (structure) of the phages, which allowed them to identify a particular group(s) of phages to which their novel phages belong. Microscopy, along with DNA analysis, provides the necessary information for further classification using the tools of bioinformatics. Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary study that focuses on understanding biological data using computer programs and scientific research databases. 

Students with their bio research
Photo Caption: 
Columbia State Community College students with their electron microscopy research photos. (Pictured, left to right): Carter Woehlert (Brentwood), Tristan Watson (Columbia), Jenna St. Pierre (Columbia), Tessa Coté (Mt. Pleasant) and Ximena Leon (Lewisburg).

“Our students are doing extremely meaningful discovery work of global significance,” Eivazova said. “This type of work has taught our students to persevere, stay on target and never give up.”

The Columbia State Introduction to Biology Research course was established in 2017 by Eivazova to create hands-on research opportunities to promote and advance creativity, critical thinking, communication and writing skills. Students have the opportunity to learn biology research methods, write lab reports and papers in the scientific format and prepare a presentation to summarize the results of their research. To learn more about the course and the Columbia State Science, Technology and Mathematics division, visit www.ColumbiaState.edu/STM

Students present Biology research
Photo Caption: 
Columbia State Community College students at the spring American Society for Microbiology meeting hosted at Columbia State’s Williamson Campus. (Pictured, left to right): Megan Mohundro (Columbia), Ximena Leon (Lewisburg), Tessa Coté (Mt. Pleasant), Gregory Tarleton-Markov (Franklin) andCarter Woehlert (Brentwood).

Jenna St. Pierre with Biology research
Photo Caption: Columbia State Community College student, Jenna St. Pierre (Columbia), at the spring American Society for Microbiology meeting.

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