Teacher plans expansion on biomed classes

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 27, 2009

The Lincoln County School District’s premiere science class hasthe potential to spread across Southwest Mississippi, thanks to anew designation from one of the nation’s leading Ivy Leagueinstitutions.

The Biomedical Research class taught by Enterprise AttendanceCenter science teacher Kathy McKone has been named a PrincetonUniversity Satellite Learning Center, a title that will allowMcKone to train other teachers in the area to teach the class attheir schools and loan them thousands of dollars worth of advancedlaboratory equipment.

McKone plans to hold the first 10-hour certification workshop intwo parts on Saturday, Sept. 26 and Saturday, Oct. 3, atEnterprise. Teachers from any school district may apply for thesession by e-mailing McKone at katmckone@aol.com.

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“If a teacher goes through my 10-hour workshop, then they gounder the Princeton umbrella, and they will have the free resourcesprovided by Princeton,” she said. “My primary focus will go to theteachers in my district, but we want to help anyone in the area -Wesson, Franklin County, Lawrence County. It’s open to any teacherswho want to get a biotech program started.”

Teachers who complete the training and wish to insert BiomedicalResearch into their schools’ curriculum will be able to borrow$10,000 worth of scientific equipment necessary to conduct theclass, including a thermal cycler, micropipettor and microfuge.They will also be eligible to order two $250 biotech kits per yearfrom Princeton at no charge, and receive a professional developmentcertificate from the university.

McKone said the kits contain all the materials necessary toconduct a biomedical experiment.

McKone’s class is the seventh such Princeton satellite in thenation and the first in the South, with the other six located inNew Jersey and Pennsylvania. She said the university decided todesignate her class a satellite after reading about her students’work at Bogue Chitto Attendance Center in the February 2009 issueof the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Bulletin. The Bulletin is ascientific journal distributed to hundreds of scientists andseveral universities that work with the Howard Hughes MedicalInstitute.

The class was recognized in the journal because of itsparticipation in the nationwide research program “Muse of Fire,”which saw several institutions working together to search forspecific strands of DNA and bacteria in fire ants.

“The Bulletin prompted them to make the decision to start asatellite right here in Mississippi because they saw our studentswere dedicated to biomedical studies,” McKone said.

Dr. Rob Rockhold, vice chancellor for academic affairs atUniversity of Mississippi Medical Center and author of the “Muse ofFire” curriculum, said the potential spread of Biomedical Researchwould “dramatically” improve the educational qualifications ofstudents entering the workforce of the future.

“Biotechnology, advanced scientific applications are going to beessential as Mississippi takes its place in our new workforce,” hesaid. “It’s going to make our state and our country morecompetitive in the global environment, and it’s going to be the wayin which we bring new, better, higher-paying jobs into this state.The work by Kathy and the expansion of these courses is jobdevelopment for the future.”

Rockhold said UMC would continue working with McKone and otherBiomedical Research classes that spring up in the future.

“I’m looking forward to this grassroots adoption of the idea ofadvancing scientific education through inquiry,” he said. “The factthat one of our teachers has gone to these extraordinary lengths todevelop herself and bring new resources into our schools -particularly in the rural counties – is just outstanding, and isthe true measure of the quality of the teachers we have in thisstate.”

The spread of Biomedical Research has already begun in thecounty school district. With McKone moving to Enterprise, she saidher former class at Bogue Chitto will be headed by Wendy Cawthorn,who has undergone similar biotechnology training from CornellUniversity.

Superintendent Terry Brister said the district has purchased theexpensive equipment necessary for the lab at Enterprise, so theclass will not be interrupted when the Princeton equipment isloaned out to another school.

“All you hear is testing all the time … and this is somethingthat goes above and beyond that call of duty,” he said. “We’ve gotadvanced classes in chemistry and math, and this is even abovethat. It draws a lot of interest. The people at Enterprise aretalking about it already.”