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Biology and Environmental Science News

Mr. Gerry Durmowicz, Product Support Manager at medical device manufacturer Becton Dickinson, presented to students in the BT 205 course: Biosafety and Quality Assurance. He received a Bachelor’s degree from Loyola College and two Master of Science degrees, from Middlebury College and Johns Hopkins University. Mr. Durmowicz said he was drawn to this position because of the practical, rather than theoretical, nature of the job. He started working at Becton Dickinson 18 years ago and shared his experiences in the field with students. The BT 205 course introduces safety and quality control issues related to product development in the biotechnology industry and Mr. Durmowicz’s presentation was valuable in increasing student understanding of these concepts.

Senior Biology majors, Ebony Smith and Keeley Cook, are assisting Dr. Blatch this year in her study of how nutrition and microorganisms affect the growth and development of fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster). Ebony is specifically looking at the effects of manipulating the flies with the addition of folic acid, while Keeley is looking at the effects bacteria have on the fruit flies. In performing this research, students have the opportunity to learn a variety of techniques including: how to handle flies, prepare special diets, determine specific stages of development, do DNA extractions and PCR, use online genomic databases, measure vitamin levels, and culture/identify microbes. Ebony’s favorite part about performing research at Stevenson is the ability to gain hands-on experience. Additionally, Keeley loves that performing research here provides her with an opportunity to practice the new techniques she has learned as a biology major.

TriBeta is an honor society for students, particularly undergraduates, dedicated to improving the understanding and appreciation of biological study and extending knowledge through scientific research. Each year Tribeta hosts new and exciting events for both its members and the Stevenson community.

This year is no exception, as the Tribeta officers (pictured above) make plans to offer biological science major specific T-shirts along with their Tribeta shirts! These shirts will be available for Biology, Biotechnology, Environmental Science, and Medical Technology majors. The order process will be set up online, so purchase will be quick and easy. The idea behind the shirts is that biological science students will be able to show pride in their majors and that they will bring the biological sciences closer together.

Additionally, Tribeta will be continuing Downtime with Dogs! During midterms and finals week, Pets on Wheels will bring therapy dogs to campus to offer stress relief for students. This year Downtime with Dogs events will be held on both Greenspring and Owings Mills, as there is a large portion of the student population that do not spend any time on the Owings Mills Campus.

Movie nights will continue to be held on the Owings Mills Campus to foster a presence in the community and promote what TriBeta is about. The induction ceremony for new members will be held in November. Continue to check the Tribeta bulletin board for events and other fun, educational information.

For more information about Tribeta visit:


Jessica Forbes (BIO, '13) is currently enrolled in a master’s degree program in biology at the Central University of Washington. CWU is the former home of a chimpanzee sanctuary made famous by one of its inhabitants, a chimp named Washoe, who was famous for sign language experiments in the 1960s.

CWU has since moved its chimps to a sanctuary in Canada, where Jessica will likely be travelling to gather data for her thesis research. In addition, she may also have the opportunity to travel to South Africa for her research. She plans to study either the conservation genetics of chimpanzees or the behavioral variations of some subspecies of chimps.

Of her program, she reports, "All of the faculty seem to be impressed with how many undergraduate research opportunities are available at SU and with some of the skills we learn in our courses! The students in our program can be trained in biology, anthropology, or psychology- so they're happy when students have experience with molecular biology techniques!" As an added bonus, Jessica enjoys great views of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams.

Dr. Randall Munson, Retired Research Program Director for Sanofi Aventis, came to Stevenson last week to speak to students in the BT 205 course: Biosafety and Quality Assurance. Dr. Munson spent approximately 50 years working as a Medicinal Chemist for Big Pharma and shared his knowledge about biosafety and quality assurance in the field with students. This course introduces the safety and quality control issues related to product development in the biotechnology industry and Dr. Munson’s presentation was beneficial to enhancing student learning in this area.

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