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School of Sciences Presents Brain Awareness Week


Students dissecting sheep brains during one of Brain Awareness Week’s events.

Last week, Belmont’s School of Sciences presented “Brain Awareness Week” as a part of the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. Events included speakers from Vanderbilt University and the Belmont neuroscience program as well as a showing of the film Memento.

In addition, students were given the opportunity to dissect sheep brains to help better understand structure-function relationships in the nervous system. Dillon Oman, a junior neuroscience major, facilitated this event. Dillon is interested in pursuing a career that will allow him to combine his love of neuroscience with his passion for educating people about neuroscience.

“Brain Awareness Week is a great opportunity to showcase the talented neuroscientists we have at Belmont along with fascinating speakers from our community.  Given the plethora of exciting new techniques and discoveries, it’s easy to see why President Obama called his BRAIN initiative ‘the next great American project’,” Dr. Lori McGrew, associate professor of biology, said.

Neuroscience is a growing field, including a wide range of subdisciplines such as cognition, behavior, cellular neuroscience and computational neuroscience. Belmont’s neuroscience major combines foundational courses in biology, chemistry, psychology and physics with upper level coursework in biology and psychology and culminates in a student-driven research project in neuroscience.  The program prepares students for careers as research assistants and animal behavioralists among others or for entry into medical school or graduate school.

Founding Dean Named for Belmont’s New College of Sciences and Mathematics

Loyola University Vice-Provost Dr. Thom Spence to join Belmont

Thom SpenceDr. Thom Spence has been named as the founding dean of Belmont University’s new College of Sciences and Mathematics. Spence currently serves as the vice-provost for institutional effectiveness, assessment and student success at Loyola University (New Orleans, La.), where he has been a faculty member since 1999. Spence will begin his new position on Belmont’s campus July 1.

Currently, Belmont’s College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) is the University’s largest college with 130 full-time faculty members and 15 academic departments within four schools. Due to extensive growth as well as recognition of the complexity of the College, Belmont will create two colleges out of the former CAS. Spence will lead the new College of Sciences and Mathematics (CSM), which will include undergraduate majors in the biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science and psychological sciences fields. CSM will be housed in the new Wedgewood Academic Center that is under construction at the corner of Wedgewood and 15th Avenues and is scheduled to open this fall.

Belmont Provost Dr. Thomas Burns said, “Belmont’s focus on developing extraordinary academic programs provides the backdrop for the creation of two colleges from our current College of Arts and Sciences. This new organizational structure will allow all of the programs in the College of Arts and Sciences opportunities for increased prominence and student focus. I am extremely pleased to announce Dr.  Spence—a leader who is committed to student and faculty development, undergraduate research and community engagement—as the founding dean of the College of Sciences and Mathematics.  Dr. Spence’s hiring not only brings an accomplished scientist to our campus, but his appointment allows Belmont to provide even greater focus on all of our science, technology and math programs as we work together to help prepare our graduates to engage and transform our world.”

Spence added, “I am very excited to be joining the College of Sciences and Mathematics at Belmont. This new college is poised to become a strong attractor for students interested in the STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] fields by offering excellent instruction in small classes with meaningful undergraduate research opportunities. I am grateful to be joining Belmont during this exciting time in its history.”


Education Class Grooms Students into Teachers through Immersion

Education Professor Joy Kimmons, far right, discusses a textbook reading with Belmont education students in a classroom at Pearl Cohn High School.

Education Professor Joy Kimmons, far right, discusses a textbook reading with Belmont education students in the teachers’ planning room at Pearl Cohn High School.

Aspiring teachers are receiving hands-on experience with at-risk youth through a unique partnership between the Belmont School of Education and local public, inner city schools. A four-hour professional core class, a requirement for education major and minors, puts Belmont students onsite at Murrell School, Magnet Middle School, Pearl Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School and Glendale Spanish Immersion Elementary School for reading clinics, tutoring session and classroom observation.

“Belmont students often do not have inner city experience when they come to the University. This is enhancing the learning of our teacher candidates,” said Education Professor Joy Kimmons. Metro Nashville Public Schools has hired several Belmont alumni who participated in her class as full-time teachers or student teachers.

On a recent winter morning, Belmont students met in at Pearl Cohn for their 45-minute lecture with Kimmons.

“Physical activity can alter the mood of a student who has trouble in the classroom,” Kimmons said to her class of 28 students meeting in the teachers’ planning room before their individual three 30-minute tutoring sessions with Pearl Cohn students. Next, they spend an hour with their paired high school teachers to facilitate small groups as well as observe and assist in classrooms.  Belmont students end the on-site session by regrouping with Kimmons and their peers to debrief through conversations that connect their textbook theories with their hands-on experiences.


Chemistry Department Hosts ‘CSI: Belmont’ Event

CSI Chemistry-103-MAssociate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Alison Moore and the Student Members of the American Chemical Society (SMACS) led an interactive crime-solving event for students last Thursday during a convocation event. With a theme reminiscent of the popular CBS TV series “CSI,” students were challenged to play the role of Crime Scene Investigators and draw conclusions about a hypothetical crime based on their research.

Students looked at evidence including fingerprints, DNA analysis and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis, which identifies different substances within a test sample. The students also investigated footprints and the ink chromatography of a note to evaluate suspects in a supposed murder. Evidence was used to include or exclude suspects during the investigation.

“It was cool to have a convocation event that allowed me to learn the material interactively instead of simply listening and taking notes,” senior Josh Hoelker said. “I was fascinated to see how the evidence came together to pin the guilty suspect.”

Earlier in the week, the “CSI: Belmont” experience also offered a visit from a training specialist from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), who talked about the educational background required to work in crime investigation as well as the training investigators go through after they get the job.

Belmont Senior, Aloompa Develop Popular iOS Photography App

DSCF6363-editWhile working at local app development company Aloompa, Belmont senior Bryn Bodayle partnered with photographer Jeremy Cowart as the primary IOS developer for OKDOTHIS, an iOS app that provides an idea community for photography. The app has been steadily climbing the Apple App Store charts since its launch in late November. Aloompa, which was co-founded by two Belmont alumni, specializes in mobile apps for music, food, conference and community events.

OKDOTHIS allows users to share both their favorite photos and the creative ideas (“DOs”) that led to it. Users can connect with other photographers, become inspired by their DOs, and watch as their DOs spark the creativity of others. Recent examples of inspiring “DOs”include “Use car headlights to light a subject” and “Show off a piece of art that a friend made.”

“It has been great to work on an app of such scale and potential. It’s been incredibly rewarding to see how users have used the app as a creative tool,” Bodayle said. “It’s really a new kind of social network, and I’m excited to see it continue to grow.”

Bodayle, an honors student focusing on design communications and computer science, began studying the development of iOS apps when he was a freshman at Belmont.


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