Christian Brothers University
School of Sciences Newsletter
September 2006

By Johnny B. Holmes, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Sciences

Featuring Natural Science and the Professional School Acceptance Stats

Note from the Dean News of the Moment Featured Article: health school stats Featured Alums Thank you's Featured Department: Natural Science

Dr. Holmes

A Note from the Dean

The great statistics about the medical school and other health-related professional school acceptances by Christian Brothers University graduates reported later in this newsletter are not the only reasons why I am so proud of the students, faculty, and staff in the School of Sciences at CBU. As dean, I see the day to day dedication and creativity that goes on in the classrooms, labs, hallways and offices so that our students get a most effective and enjoyable education.

As dean, one of my responsibilities is to make sure that the excellent work that is done here is recognized. Besides word of mouth, the reputation of our graduates, and our CBU School of Sciences website, how do we get our story known? This newsletter is one way.

Each issue will focus on a different aspect and a different department or major. This first issue focuses on our great results in the Pre-Health area, and on the Natural Science degree. Future issues will feature other aspects such as student groups, faculty research, student research, and the Minority Health International Training Grant (MHIRT) program; and the other departments: Biology, Computer Science, Chemistry, Math, and Physics. We'll also feature an alum from CBU in each issue. We hope you will share our enjoyment in our work. If you have comments, questions or reactions, you may send an e-mail now to jholmes@cbu.edu .

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student presentation in S155

News of the Moment

The Plough Foundation has awarded CBU a $2.5 million grant to expand the University's science facilities. This is a major step in our efforts to build a new building and renovate our current building – a $12 million dollar project. Our present facilities provide very nice classroom (see room S155 on the right) and lab space for our students, and our labs are well equipped. We have developed labs for most of our biology and chemistry courses, but we are running out of space to house those labs. Besides providing the extra space to house our labs, the new building will allow space for student research and student groups. We hope to have an architect’s drawing of the proposed new building complex soon.

The Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation of Memphis has announced a partnership with Christian Brothers University and will provide a $250,000 scholarship fund for juniors and seniors majoring in the sciences at CBU. The annual scholarships will be awarded to sciences majors maintaining a 3.0 grade point average and a full academic schedule and who are involved in community service activities. The Wilson Science Scholarships are renewable for qualified students. “We are most grateful to the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation for this wonderful gift,” said Brother Vincent Malham, FSC, CBU president. “This gift will support students pursuing studies in the sciences, an area of strategic importance to the future of our region and the nation.”

CBU Biology department now offers a Biomedical Science degree. This new degree is designed specifically for pre-med, pre-vet, and pre-dental students. It is a biology degree with the biology electives specified to those courses that will be most beneficial to these particular students. The biology degree is a much more flexible degree program that can serve the needs of many different students. We thought that a much more specified degree would be beneficial to those students who knew exactly what career they were aiming for.

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Featured Story: Pre-Health Success at CBU

CBU grads

In the last five years (classes of 2002 to 2006),

* In reviewing these percentages, please note that we do not pre-screen our applicants to the various professional or graduate schools as some institutions do. Some of our students were initially rejected but were accepted in a following year.

For purposes of comparison:


white coat's for CBU grad

Jason Higdon (2003) with his parents. Jason is now a medical student at Emory University.

CBU's Steps for Success

To get into competitive professional (e.g., medical, pharmacy, dental) schools, there are five things that are important:

1. Grades At CBU most of our science courses have labs associated with them, and the instructor for the lecture is usually the instructor for the lab. Our professors have at least 10 office hours each week to help students both with their coursework and with advising for their career plans.

2. Entrance tests (e.g., MCAT, PCAT, DAT) The excellent courses supported by well equipped labs prepare our students for these tests. In addition, the CBU Career Center offers practice tests to try to help prepare our students.

3. Experience in the field At CBU we provide our students with many opportunities to gain experience (see a slide show) in their chosen field. In the freshmen Principles of Biology courses we have a discussion section that spends some time talking about what it takes to get into various fields. In the sophomore year we have a Biology Careers course that has students shadow a couple of professionals and hear many more make presentations about their fields. In the Junior year we have a Junior Seminar course that brings researchers onto campus to talk about their research. All of our majors have a senior capstone research or internship course. This experience is viewed very positively by the various health professional schools.

4. Recommendations from your professors and the supervisors of your work in the field. At CBU you are encouraged to really get to know your professors. If you take advantage of this, the professors will be able to write very specific letters of recommendation for you.

5. Interviews As part of the admissions process for professional schools, students are required to attend an interview. At CBU we help students prepare for this opportunity by holding mock interviews staffed by our alumni and other health professionals.

To help and guide you in your preparation for pursuing any of the health careers, we have a Pre-Professional Heath Director, Dr. Stan Eisen. He has a very extensive set of web pages on the various health careers and what it takes to get into these professional schools.

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Featured Alum: Brian Polk, Chemistry, 1997

Brian at CBU in 1997

Brian Polk at CBU in 1997

The following is written by Brian Polk:

I received a B.S. in Chemistry Summa Cum Laude from Christian Brothers University in 1997. I was honored to be co-recipient of the Bro. Dominic Dunn Award that year. I had several career related experiences as an undergraduate. At various times, I was as a teaching assistant for chemistry labs at CBU, I worked as a laboratory technician at Great Lakes Chemical, and I did research at the University of Kentucky.

I was granted a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia) in 2002. During the course of grad school I won several competitive fellowships including the Presidential Fellowship from Georgia Tech, the Graduate Research Fellowship from the Division of Analytical Chemistry of the American Chemical Society, and a Traineeship in Environmental Science from the National Science Foundation. With support from the ACS fellowship, I was able to spend three months doing research at Dublin City University (Dublin, Ireland) in 2000.

From 2002 to 2004, I was a National Academy of Science / National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, Gaithersburg , Maryland ). In 2004 I was promoted to Research Chemist in the Semiconductor Electronics Division of NIST.

My research revolves around microfabrication, electrochemistry, and chemical sensors. I am particularly interested in solving the problems associated with integration of electronics, sensors, and fluidics. As part of a team in BioElectronics, I am developing chemical senors contained within integrated microfluidic systems. The team’s efforts are ultimately aimed at improving the reliability, accuracy, and traceability of portable biochemical diagnostic equipment. Much of the current work focuses on forensic DNA analysis in an effort to alleviate the long lag time between evidence collection and analysis. Many of our technologies could also be used in bedside diagnostic equipment in hospitals or doctor’s offices.

In addition to my primary job in research, I am a part-time faculty member of Montgomery College. MC is a two-year community college in Maryland. I’ve taught general chemistry lecture and lab and organic chemistry lab. This fall I will teach an introductory chemistry lecture and a general chemistry lab. I find teaching challenging but rewarding. Through teaching I can give back to my instructors and mentors by following their examples. It also provides me with the opportunity to promote public understanding of science in general.

Despite the success I’ve experienced in my career so far, it pales in importance next to my family. I married my college sweetheart, Cathy Eichholz (CBU, Comp.Sci. '99) on June 19 of 1999. Cathy also attended graduate school at Georgia Tech, finishing with an M.S. in Computer Science in 2002. This spring Cathy and I were blessed with our first child, a daughter. Anna Catherine Polk was born on April 11, 2006 weighing 7 pounds, 1 ounce. The family is doing wonderfully and Cathy and I celebrated a very happy anniversary this year.

Outside of research and family commitments, I try to find time to stay physically fit. I occasionally run in 10k road races, but my real interest is the martial arts. I earned a black belt in Taekwondo in 2002 at Georgia Tech. Now I’m working towards a black belt in another style called Tang Soo Do.

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Thank You to Science Faculty

Whitney is on the left

Whitney Appling at the annual Senior Research Poster Session. Whitney is a first-year dental student at the University of Mississippi.

Dear Dr. Ross,
I know it's been a while since I graduated from CBU (2005), but I thought I would e-mail you to let you know how glad I am that I took your courses (histology and embryology). I'm in microscopic anatomy now at the University of Mississippi Medical Center's Dental School. Please make sure your students know just how lucky they are to have you and your resources. It will definitely make their lives easier when they reach "big doctor school." I do miss CBU and all the bio faculty. I hope everyone is doing well!
Sincerely, Whitney Appling

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Featured Department: Natural Science
(In each issue we will feature a different department or major.)

The different degree programs in the traditional fields of biology, chemistry, computer science, math, and physics are all designed to give the student sufficient depth to prepare the student for further study in these areas or for a career in these areas. But there are many career opportunities that are more multidisciplinary in nature, and the Natural Science degree is designed to serve students interested in those careers. To serve this broad range of interests, the degree has very few specific courses specified. Below is a brief look at some of the uses of a Natural Science degree.

If you are interested in teaching math or science in middle school or high school, the Natural Science degree is one path you can use. We have developed paradigms for teacher licensure for this purpose.

Essentially all professional health programs do not specify a particular degree requirement for entry, and so a Natural Science degree can be used. The student pursuing this option should work closely with the Pre-Health Advisor to make sure that all of the requirements for the professional school are covered.

Science is big business in America and around the world, and there is a definite need for people who know something about both areas. In the city, the Memphis Bioworks Foundation is working for the development and commercialization of biomedical technology, and CBU is involved in that effort. A degree in Natural Science with either a minor in Business or a cluster of courses in business provides a good background for this type of career. We at CBU are actively looking to develop a paradigm in this particular field.

Science writing is another multidisciplinary field where a Natural Science degree can be combined with a certificate in professional writing that will provide a great foundation for that career.

Since science is such a big business, and big business entails significant issues related to law, a Natural Science degree with a minor in history or political science can provide a good background for law school and an eventual career in patent or regulatory law.

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