Biomed class featured in journal

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The seven seniors comprising Bogue Chitto Attendance Center’scutting-edge Biomedical Research class have been featured in aleading industry journal, putting the small group of ruraleducation groundbreakers before the eyes of some of America’sgreatest scientists.

The February issue of the Howard Hughes Medical InstituteBulletin, a scientific journal distributed to hundreds ofscientists, whose work is funded through HHMI and some of theleading research institutes in the country, contains a featurecentered on the small class and its research. The article can beviewed online at

The class, one of few like it in the state and yet to complete afull year in existence, is devoted to participation in “The Muse ofFire,” a research program instituted through the University ofMississippi Medical Center. It has the Bogue Chitto seniors usingstate-of-the-art scientific instruments in the search for specificstrands of DNA and bacteria in common fire ants.

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“What is happening in Bogue Chitto is being recognizedinternationally as a quality program,” said Dr. Rob Rockhold, UMC’svice chancellor for academic affairs and creator of the Muse ofFire program. “Some of the biggest minds in bio sciences see this.These are world-class researchers who often have labs with two-,three-dozen people in them.”

Rockhold said the publicity afforded the program could bode wellfor future funding and the growth of biomedical research classes inMississippi. He said it also opens wide a door for Bogue Chitto’sseven seniors, who can be seen in the HHMI article in fulllaboratory regalia handling scientific instruments far advancedfrom the glass tubes and Bunsen burners common to high schoolscience classes.

“It’s entirely possible that some of the undergraduateinstitutions – the next level for the kids at Bogue Chitto – wouldsee that, and their recruiting agents would see that sort of thingand follow up,” Rockhold said. “If I were trying to recruit some ofthe best high school students and we had a Howard Hughes program atmy institution, I would certainly be looking there for leadingstudents.”

Kathy McKone, Bogue Chitto’s science teacher who spent lastsummer traveling to workshops at premier research institutions toprepare for Biomedical Research, said the publicity afforded herstudents makes her proud for Mississippi as a whole.

“Mississippi usually gets a lot of bad press, but this articlesheds positive light on the ability of our students and how theyare capable as any in the country,” she said. “Scientists arepremier research facilities will be made aware that Mississippi canparticipate or compete in top-notch biotech investigations.”

The class itself is generating interest at Bogue Chitto, McKonesaid, pointing out that several juniors have expressed interest intaking Biomedical Research next year. Two of the current sevenstudents are planning to pursue careers in the biomed industry, shesaid.

The next immediate goal for the class is compile its year’sworth of research into a report to submit to the University ofMississippi, where – if selected – the class will travel in Marchto give a presentation on their research.

The long-term goal, not only of Bogue Chitto’s class but of theMuse of Fire program, is to find a means for controlling theSouth’s fire ant population, McKone said. So far, the class – theonly one of the five in the state researching DNA – has found thedesired bacteria, Wolbachia, in its ants, which were collected froman ant bed just outside the school cafeteria.

“We may be the first group to actually find it in Mississippi,”she said.