The sciences at High Point University are growing rapidly. As HPU gears up to launch new physician assistant, pharmacy and physical therapy programs, the departments of biology, chemistry and physics are also expanding to meet a growing need for science professionals.
In the past two years, physics has split off to become its own department; the chemistry department has doubled staffing; biology has modernized their degree curriculum; all three departments have received more than $200,000 in new research and teaching equipment; science classrooms have been renovated; and a new summer research program has been established.
New faculty and staff members at HPU all boast credentials that will contribute to the extraordinary education of HPU students.
Dr. Meghan Blackledge, new assistant professor of chemistry, works with undergraduate students on synthetic peptide and cellular studies research and teaches undergraduate chemistry courses, including general chemistry, organic chemistry and physical and analytical biochemistry lab.
Dr. Melissa Srougi, new assistant professor of biochemistry, teaches biochemistry and chemistry courses and labs, and performs independent research on RNA function with undergraduate students.
Dr. Andrew Wommack, new assistant professor of chemistry, assists in the development and communication of the organic chemistry curriculum and undergraduate research program in organic synthesis of biologically relevant molecules in addition to his teaching responsibilities.
Mrs. Sheena Valenti, new laboratory manager, coordinates the lab experiences for students and ensures safety is the top priority in the science labs.
Dr. Patrick Vigueira, visiting assistant professor of biology, teaches biology courses and leads undergraduates in independent research.
Dr. Cynthia Vigueira, assistant professor of biology, teaches genetics and other biology courses while also mentoring students in research projects.
The science departments have invested a quarter of a million dollars in new equipment to support scientific research and education on campus, including a $77,186 Institutional Development Grant from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center (NCBC) to purchase additional equipment for the cell culture lab directed by Dr. Heather Miller, assistant professor of biochemistry. The grant added items such as incubators, hoods, microscopes and a liquid nitrogen storage freezer. HPU has agreed to an additional 25 percent match to the grant.
In addition to cell culture equipment, the departments have added:
- A nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) machine, which is used to detect the chemical structure of unknown compounds in organic chemistry labs;
- Two gel imaging systems, one each for biology and chemistry, which calculate the mass and quantity of protein in a sample;
- A UV-Vis spectrometer to measure the wavelength(s) of light a substance absorbs;
- A microcentrifuge to separate substances of greater and lesser density;
- An environmental incubator for the biology department;
- And a laser system for physics.
With the addition of the new equipment, students in undergraduate courses will be able to learn the essentials of cell culture techniques, gel imaging and more. These opportunities will give HPU students a competitive edge in science-related internships, as well as the basic skills necessary for science-related jobs or further graduate education.
The physics department was also recently added as a member of the Small and Moderate Aperture Research Telescope System (SMARTS) Consortium, which operates four small telescopes at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.
New office suites, classrooms and study spaces have been added to Congdon Hall. Keeping up with trends in the science education field, the biology, chemistry and physics departments now offer “flipped classrooms”: a physical and philosophical approach to teaching. Students complete pre-class assignments in which they study simpler material, watch a video or complete a reading assignment. In-class time is spent working through more complex problems and revisiting concepts that students don’t understand. The classroom setup is also physically structured differently; rather than sitting at small, individual desks, students now work on long, tiered tables. The implementation of flipped classrooms and renovated spaces will further enhance not only student-to-faculty collaboration, but student-to-student peer mentorship as well.
New Research Program
A brand new program to HPU this year, the Summer Undergraduate Research Program in the Sciences (SURPS) will offer an eight-week program to support undergraduate research. Modeled after the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program practiced by other leading research universities, the program is for chemistry, biology and physics majors. Students apply to the program and rank the order of which particular faculty-written proposal they would like to join. Once selected by a committee, twelve faculty members are assigned two student-researchers each. Participating students will receive a stipend and on-campus housing. The deadline for student applications is Jan. 23, 2015. Selections will be made by early February, and the research projects will commence May 26, 2015. For more information about SURPS, contact Dr. Angela Bauer (firstname.lastname@example.org, 336-841-9501) or Dr. Brian Augustine (email@example.com, 336-841-9405).