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2017 Biology Newsletter

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Student Internships

Last summer, students interned and attended programs near and far. Some highlights include:

Parker Upchurch (Bio/Pre-Dentistry track) participated in the Introduction to Dentistry Workshop at the University of Louisville. This was a two-day program that provided insight to life as a dental student and as a dentist. She was able to speak to admissions counselors and dental students. Her favorite part was all of the hands-on activities and the opportunity to practice on plastic teeth!!! This helped her determine that she has chosen a profession that she will enjoy. The AHEC office helped her register for the program.

Coomes photoCaleb Coomes (Bio/Pre-Medical track) was a full-time volunteer for Save a Child's Heart. SACH is an Israeli-based non-profit organization that provides life-saving cardiac surgeries to children from developing countries. He lived at the Children's Home in Holon, Israel with the children to help keep them engaged and having fun while preparing for and recovering from surgery. Caleb shadowed with a pediatric heart surgeon and in the operating room during a truncus arteriosus repair on a 10-month-old from Uganda. Overall it was an amazing experience that Caleb will never forget!

Katie Alexander (Bio/Pre-Medical track):  For one month, I was paid to shadow healthcare workers at Murray-Calloway County Hospital, rotating each week through radiology, orthopedics, family medicine, and cardiology/pulmonary. This allowed me to familiarize myself with each modality within radiology and later see how the scans were utilized in other departments. I sat in on a surgery and consults in orthopedics as well as various stress tests, echocardiograms, and pulmonary fitness tests in cardiology/pulmonary. My favorite part of the program was learning about all of the different health professions within each department, not just physicians, and how they contributed to each patient's care!

Bowman photoJodessa Bowman (Zoological Conservation) was on a study abroad trip in South Africa participating in a wildlife and conservation course. She traveled around South Africa; while there, she worked with a disease ecologist, a wild game vet, professors from a college in South Africa, and people that worked in Kruger National Park. This experience allowed her to see different jobs in the wildlife field and work closely with the people that did these jobs. 

Remming photoElizabeth Remming (Zoological Conservation) worked at Antelope Park, a rescue sanctuary for lions and elephants, in Zimbabwe, Africa. She says: I was an animal management intern, helping the animal manager. Every morning I checked on the 114 lions and 4 elephants in their enclosures to make sure that they were all healthy, to give medications, etc. Activities during the rest of the day included meat prep, supervising volunteer activities such as cleaning enclosures, snare sweeps, platform building, behavior enrichment, or filling water troughs. One of my biggest responsibilities was with Shaka, a 7-month old cub. I had to feed him daily, give him medication and vitamins, and make sure that he was having daily cub sits with the volunteers or myself and a handler. His siblings had died so we played with him to help him with his instincts and get some of his energy out. The management side of the sanctuary was also my responsibility. I kept track of who has been fed and cleaned weekly, made the lion and elephants handlers schedules each day, compiled a notebook of any issues with the lions, or things that needed to be done including who needed medication, who had new injuries or was sick, if any of the lions looked pregnant, who needed to be de-ticked, and any other problems that may have appeared. All-in-all it was a very intensive internship but I could not have asked for anything better.

Camp CurrieKatelyn Beckemeyer, Lizzie Donaldson, Lane Dowell, Ariell Monroe, Kevin Payton, Brittany Smith, & Ashtyn Ward (Wildlife & Conservation Biology) all worked at Camp Currie on Kentucky Lake. They taught kids hunter safety, archery, nature and outdoor survival, fishing, swimming, and boating skills. This allows kids to be safe and skilled outdoors men and women! (Photo: left to right, Brittany Smith, Nichole Thomas, Lizzie Donaldson, Allison Jones, Taylor Horton).

Alumnus Updates - Dr. Edward G. McFarland and Allan Morris

McFarland photoDr. Edward G. McFarland, a Murray State alumnus who is an orthopedic surgeon at The Johns Hopkins University, visited Murray State last fall, where he gave a seminar about his work at JHU and met with pre-health professional students. Ed also hosted an Murray State pre-medical student in a JHU/Murray State internship last summer, funded by Murray State's Hal E. Houston Endowed Fund for Excellence in Biomedical Science.

Dr. McFarland received his B.S. in biology at Murray State University and was also a defensive back on the Murray State Football Team from 1974 to 1978. After graduating from Murray State, he completed his M.D. at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, performed his residency in orthopaedic surgery at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine and completed a fellowship in sports medicine at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Group in Santa Monica, California. He joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins in 1992.

Dr. McFarland is now a professor of orthopaedic surgery at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the Wayne H. Lewis Professor of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery, and serves as Director of the Division of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery. He specializes in the treatment of shoulder and elbow injuries (particularly those injuries associated with baseball and other sports), and related issues such as shoulder instability, shoulder rotator cuff problems and shoulder joint replacements.

Dr. McFarland is a member of numerous professional organizations, serves on the editorial boards of three journals and is a past president of the Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons. He has authored or co-authored over 170 peer-reviewed articles, 20 book chapters and three full books, and has won several awards for his research and service. (Photo: Dr. McFarland talking with Pre-Health Professional students from Biology and Chemistry).

Allan Morris and familyDr. Claire Fuller, department chair, met Allan Morris, the Biology Department's first MS graduate, over Homecoming Weekend. Mr. Morris worked with Hunter Hancock and graduated in 1967, completing a thesis titled, "Temperature Effects on Winter Aggregations of Fish in Two Adjoining Coves". Dr. Fuller, Allan, his wife, Nancy, their grandson and his girlfriend (current Murray State students!) took a tour of the Biology Building as well as the Biology Department's spaces in the brand new Engineering and Physics Building.

Mr. Morris started as an education Master's student and completed all of the class work. However, because he was concurrently serving in the Air Force, he did not have the time to complete the required half-year student teaching. He switched to his first love, biology, when Murray State received certification to issue a Science Masters. Allan Morris and plaqueDr. Hunter Hancock recruited him to be the departments first MS student. Because the department did not yet have all of the required courses, he attended Ohio State University for part of his Biology coursework. Mr. Morris said, "If it was not for Murray receiving the MS accreditation for this degree, I would have been on a completely different life tract, flying military aircraft in Vietnam. Because of my time at Murray and the course work I took, a higher authority selected me for advance training in clinical laboratory medicine. What made that special was the Air Force only trained two incoming officers in that year and I was selected. In 1968, Nancy and I headed to California to study at Tavis Air Force base’s David Grant Regional Medical Center for a year and then off to Texas to run that hospital medical laboratory."

The Morris' live in the Louisville area, and are very active in the business and health communities there.

Faculty Recognitions

Dr. Alexey Arkov, received a National Science Foundation, RUI grant for his proposal,  “Role of Germ Cell Nanoparticles during Germline Specification in Drosophila” for $700,000 over 3 years.  This grant will allow the Arkov lab to explore a potential for cellular nanoscale structures and molecular machines composed of RNA and proteins to self-assemble and drive multi-step biological processes. These processes ensure the development of germline cells and tissues which give rise to egg and sperm and therefore, ensure the next-generations and the continuity of life. These studies may also eventually result in the design of artificial nanoparticles with desired biochemical and enzymatic characteristics, therefore, leading to technological breakthroughs in nanobiology. Furthermore, this grant will provide exciting research and education opportunities for our undergraduate and graduate students and a postdoctoral scholar. Feel free to contact Dr. Arkov at for more information or visit his lab!

Faculty, Student and Alumni Awards

Faculty Awards
  • Dr. Michael Flinn received the Murray State Distinguished Mentor Award because of his outstanding ability to mentor both undergraduate and graduate research students
  • Dr. Claire Fuller received the Neil Weber Award for service to the Department and the Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology
  • Dr. Chris ("Dr. T") Trzepacz received the Regent’s Teaching Award for his outstanding achievements in the classroom
  • Dr. Howard Whiteman received the Tom Timmons Outstanding Biology Faculty Award
Student Awards
  • Murray State University Outstanding Senior Man: Jason Matthews
  • Outstanding Fourth Year Student in Biology: Ashley Munie
  • Outstanding Second Year Student in Biology: Colby Canter
  • Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Assistant: Ashley Munie
  • Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant: Tyler Hoard
  • Larry D. Pharris Outstanding Wildlife Student: Jason Matthews
  • Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor’s Society Graduates: Jessie Boles & Ashley Munie
  • Graduating Biology Student Ambassadors: Jessie Boles, Jason Matthews, Ashley Munie, Fumihiko Nakamura, Nathan Tillotson
Alumni Awards
  • Dr. Vishwas Talwalkar received the 2017 Distinguished Alumni award.

Faculty Developments

Darracq photoWe welcome our newest faculty member! Dr. Andrea Darracq is our new Wildlife Biologist. Before joining the faculty at Murray State, she earned a M.S. from the University of Arkansas at Monticello and Ph.D. from the University of Florida in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. Dr. Darracq is a broadly trained wildlife ecologist with previous experience working with mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. Her research interests involve understanding how we can conserve and manage wildlife to promote healthy ecosystems. She is particularly interested in how wildlife respond to management and anthropogenic changes, including urbanization, agriculture, and invasive species. She addresses these impacts on individuals (e.g. predation risk and stress), populations, and communities. Dr. Darracq grew up in Maine and enjoys living in Murray with her husband, also a wildlife ecologist, 5-month-old daughter and 2 dogs. She enjoys running, hunting, hiking, and generally anything that gets her outdoors. She and her husband are passionate about the conservation of wildlife and hope to instill this same passion in their daughter.

Dr. Paul Gagnon is currently on leave from Murray State while serving as a Science and Technology Policy Fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The competitive fellowship trains scientists in the functioning of the federal government as they use their technical training to inform policy-making. Some Fellows serve as congressional aids, but most work in an agency of the Executive Branch. Dr. Gagnon’s placement is with the Institute of Water Resources (IWR) of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in Alexandria, VA, which has been described as the think-tank of USACE. His mission is to inform decision-making at USACE Headquarters pertaining to policy on wetland mitigation and aquatic ecosystem restoration. This work relates directly to his position as a wetland ecologist with the Watershed Studies Institute at Murray State. He is learning much that will inform his research and teaching at Murray State.

Retired Faculty News - Dr. Tom Timmons

Timmons photoDr. Tom Timmons retired in June 2014 after 32 years as a Biology Department faculty member, 17 were as the Chair. Dr. Timmons taught ichthyology and other fisheries-related courses over his career. He had a very active lab with many undergraduate and graduate student researchers. Since retirement, he and his wife, Kathy (retired Murray State Nutrition faculty) have traveled extensively in Central America, Europe and the US. Tom has expanded his vegetable garden (Kathy cooks up all the fresh produce) and has completed his Master Gardening Certificate. Tom often drops by the department to chat, pick up his compost bucket and make us all jealous. (Photo: Tom and Kathy at the Atlantic Ocean as seen from Northern Spain, summer 2017)

Support Murray State Today!

If you would like to donate to the Biology Department or a specific fund such as the Dr. Timmons' Biology Award fund, checks should be made out to the Murray State University Foundation with the specific fund in the memo section (see the "giving" link for available funds). Checks should be sent to the Murray State Office of Development, 200 Heritage Hall, Murray, KY 42071. Gifts can also be made by credit card, over the phone or by calling the Office of Development at 1-877-282-0033 (toll free) or 270-809-3001 (local). Donations can also be made online by visiting All contributions will facilitate student success either directly (Scholarships and Student Research Grants) or indirectly (by helping us provide upgraded equipment). Any gift to the Murray State University Department of Biology, no matter the amount—is appreciated and needed! Plus, it is much easier to give than you might think. Simply contact Murray State Office of Development by phone at 1-877-282-0033 or 270-809-3001 and tell them that you'd like to make a gift to the Department of Biology or go to