Team Plastic Recycling Initiative

McMurry University

The purpose of the project is taking used PET plastic water and placing them in a grinder, where the waste will be reduced into a uniform sized pellet. Once these plastics have been turned to pellets they will be placed into a 3D filament extruder to be reused once or even more than once on a 3D printer table. Students will receive a crash course in CAD and slicer software as well as how to use a 3D printer. Researchers will 3D print via fiber extrusion their inventions or research artifact. They will be allowed to experiment with formulating new fiber recipes with unique physical properties as well as calculating cost of reusing plastic and if it is practical to do so.

More information on how you might join this Research Team? Contact Professor Wayne Keith at

Team Backyard Bats

Cisco College

Bats are some of the most important yet misunderstood mammals. In their own ecosystem, bats are vital to such processes as insect pest consumption, plant pollination, and seed dispersal. These benefits extend to human economics and industry worldwide. Unfortunately, bats are threatened worldwide by habitat loss, hunting, disease, and misinformation. On a local scale, recent demolitions and renovations have resulted in the destruction of known bat roosts in urban areas of Abilene. This could present an opportunity to offer new roost options for displaced bats. Team Backyard Bats will address this opportunity via the construction of manmade bat houses.

More information on how you might join this Research Team? Contact Professor Ritchie at

Team Blackwell Lab

McMurry University

Mercury contamination is a world-wide issue, and because of the toxicity of mercury, high concentrations in the environment can lead to problems in wildlife communities and even human populations. This research team will study the transfer of mercury from the atmosphere into the ecosystem by measuring mercury deposition in litterfall. The Blackwell Lab will also study mercury in food webs by examining concentrations in aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates that serve as food sources for vertebrates. Potential study locations include Firebase Libby and lake Fort Phantom Hill.

More information on how you might join this Research Team? Contact Professor Blackwell at

Team Wright Start

McMurry University

The goal of Professor Wright is to investigate the possible correlation between the fungal species present in a mother’s breast milk with her infant’s gut mycobiome. Many studies have been completed on the bacterial species found in breastmilk, however; no studies have looked at the interaction of fungi found in breastmilk with infant stool samples. This research can help establish the dominant fungal species found in the infant gut mycobiome as well as map the timing of colonization of the fungal species in the infant’s gut. This research also looks at the correlations that exist between a mother’s breast milk fungal species and her infant’s gut mycobiome.

More information on how you might join this Research Team? Contact Professor Wright at

Team O’Connell’s Oncogeniuses

McMurry University

Dr. O’Connell will head up Team O’Connell’s Oncogeniuses, studying metastasis of breast cancer

Dr. Malaney O’Connell’s Research Team is exploring the tremendous challenges found in breast cancer research. Their work will center on metastasis and the role that a molecule called collagen X may play in facilitating the spread of cancer cells. Her work began at UT Medical Branch-Galveston where she obtained her Ph.D. in Cancer Cell Biology in a study that sought answers for why metastasis rates differed among various ethnic groups. Students working in research with her have made significant progress in developing strategies and tools for studying metastasis, some of which have been reported at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. McMurry students were the only undergraduate students in the nation to show their work. Now with the support of the Title V grant, her Research Team will be able to use the tools developed, including new genetically modified cancer cell lines, to take the next in discovery.

An introductory video is available here. More information on how you might join this Research Team? Contact Dr. O’Connell at

Team Crab Boyle

McMurry University

Dr. T.J. Boyle will head up Team Crab Boyle, studying invasive crabs species

Dr. T.J. Boyle studies invasive crab species that are found in lakes of our region. His work began as a graduate student at Texas A&M University where he received his Ph.D. Two questions have dominated his research to this point: just how far have the invasive crabs migrated (in what lakes are they now found), and what threat do the crabs pose to natural wildlife in those affected lakes. To date, students in research have helped complete a survey of regional lakes by trapping and identifying invertebrates present. This work has been presented at regional science conferences to very positive reviews. Now that his Research Team has been formed, the funding from Title V will enable his Research Team students to complete the survey and begin competition studies of the invertebrates to see how crab behavior might be modifying the normal biology and ecology of the lakes.

An introductory video is available here. More information on how you might join this Research Team? Contact Dr. Boyle at

Team Brant Scouts

McMurry University

Dr. Joel Brant heads up Team Brant Scouts in a study of bat migration patterns

Dr. Joel Brant is a mammalogist whose research has centered on the distribution and ecology of small mammals in west central Texas. This was a love that developed during his graduate days at Texas Tech University where he got his Ph.D. For the past few years, his work has focused on a survey of mammals at Camp Bowie, a Texas National Guard training facility in Brown County TX. This work has allowed him to take McMurry students into the field to help with the design and implementation of a trapping plan, and the collection of data to create a description of the biology and ecology of the area. These students have presented their research at regional scientific meetings. Title V funding will allow Team Brant Scouts to begin a new venture as they survey bat populations in our region, home to some of the largest wind turbine farms in the world, to determine how migration patterns might be altered due to the turbines.

An introductory video is available here. More information on how you might join this Research Team? Contact Dr. Brant at

Team Cisco Sustainability

Cisco College

Dr. Chandrasekharan working with a Research Team student on biofermentation to produce biofuel

Dr. Nirmala Chandrasekharan believes strongly in the power of doing the right thing. Her training in chemistry at the Indian Institute of Science where she obtained her PhD and her experience in teaching the subject for many years have led her to research using chemistry to find environmentally-sound solutions to problems arising from society. As a community college faculty member, the opportunities for research are limited, yet that has not deterred Dr. C (as she is called) from doing so. Title V funding is providing the time and resources and incentive to formalize and focus her research on a single problem. Her Research Team is going to investigate development and fine-tuning of a biofermentor to explore the potential use of animal waste for generation of energy. Though such efforts are not new, the practical training and approaches taken in this project will give new insight into how best to approach regional solutions to the use of biowaste at hand.

An introductory video is available here. More information on how you might join this Research Team? Contact Dr. Chandra at

Team Terry’s AI Experts

Cisco College

Brandi Terry
Cisco Instructor leading Terry’s AI Experts

Professor Brandi Terry is Cisco’s Agriculture professor and heads up the Meat Judging Team. These experiences have positioned her well to join our growing list of researchers. Her Research Team students will come from both Abilene and Cisco campuses and join her in research on how to maximize the viability of semen samples used in artificial insemination of livestock. There is great variability in the protocols used from different suppliers for the defrosting of samples to be used in livestock production. Team Terry’s AI Experts will compare protocols and do in vitro studies to find the most effective strategy to use for maximizing the success rates for artificial insemination. As might be expected, this is a Research Team whose end results could have great economic benefits for the agriculture industry. There is no shortage of students wishing to join in on the work.

An introductory video is available here. More information on how you might join this Research Team? Contact Professor Terry at

Team Dalton’s Performance Max

McMurry University

Dr. Dalton will head up a team studying physiological benefits of training with altitude masks.

Dr. Ryan Dalton is all about maximizing human performance as an human physiologist focusing on methods to build capacity and endurance. His students in Exercise Science and Human Performance courses know this well – intellectual performance is as important as physical performance! Dr. Dalton’s experience and training at Texas A&M have positioned him well to engage students in the process of discovery related to his training. His Research Team will be investigating one aspect of performance training this year – use of breathing masks to mimic training at altitude. Students will join him in testing the masks to determine what physiological benefit they might provide, whether related to sports performance or to improving the health of individuals with a variety of health issues.

An introductory video is available here. More information on how you might join this Research Team? Contact Dr. Dalton at