News Archives: School of Science and Mathematics

Patterson follows Justice through HPU’s biomedical science program

Howard Payne University’s biomedical science program reached two significant milestones recently with the graduation of its first program participant and the admittance of its second student. Hannah Justice of Brownwood, who was admitted to the program as a sophomore in 2017, graduated in May and Morgan Patterson, a junior from Kerrville, will begin coursework in the program this fall.

The demanding program prepares students for various health professions through challenging coursework similar to what they will encounter as graduate students. To be considered for admission to the program, students must complete 60 semester hours with a GPA of at least 3.0, complete required biology and chemistry courses, submit an application packet to the program and interview with the Biomedical Science Admissions Committee.

“HPU students pursuing the biomedical science degree will begin as a biology major,” said Dr. Kristen Hutchins, associate professor of biology and director of HPU’s biomedical science program. “Once they’ve met the requirements for admission, they can then apply to become a Biomedical Scholar and finish their HPU degree in biomedical science.”

From her perspective as a newly minted HPU graduate, Justice appreciates the ways the experience prepared her for her future in the medical field and for life.

“This program is very rigorous,” Justice said, “but you’re given so many resources and get to be in a program that’s specifically tailored to what you want to do. It has definitely prepared me to go to graduate school. Working with Dr. Hutchins has also been very rewarding. She has given me guidance in the classroom and in life and has encouraged me, supported me and believed in me when I didn’t always believe in myself.”

Justice largely attributed her completion of the program to the support of friends, family and others in the HPU community. She explained that being at HPU helped her to focus on Christ as the motivation for her hard work.

“You need people in your life who are there to encourage you and also keep you humble,” she said. “The great thing about this program being at HPU is that it provides that kind of accountability by reminding you of who you are in Christ and who you’re doing this for.”

Justice also gave advice for those preparing to enroll in the program in the future.

“Don’t let the hard work scare you,” she said. “Pursuing any sort of pre-health profession is sometimes dubbed as impossible, especially if you’re attending a small university, but if you are willing to put in the hard work and be diligent then it’s completely possible.”

Justice has been accepted to her first choice of medical schools, Texas Tech University, where she will be studying for the next four years. She will then participate in a residency program for three to five years to become board certified in a specialty of her choosing.

“When working with our department to design the biomedical science program, I had students like Hannah in mind,” said Dr. Hutchins. “She is driven, curious and has a love of science and people. She persevered through hard semesters and allowed the Lord to guide her as she made decisions about her future. Getting to mentor Hannah over the last few years has been such a treasure to me.”

As Justice was wrapping up her time in the biomedical program and at HPU, Patterson was just getting started. She completed her sophomore year and is majoring in the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy as well as biomedical science. She interviewed for admission to the program in spring 2019.

“I was nervous for my interview, but I’m really excited to be the next person in the program,” said Patterson. “I‘ve known my whole life that I’ve wanted to be somewhere in the health field. When I applied to HPU I just knew that this program was my best chance at getting into a graduate school in the health field.”

Patterson said she has wanted to be a veterinarian since high school, but was unsure until college.

“When I was in high school I wanted to be a vet, but I thought I wasn’t cut out for it,” she said. “When I came to college that changed. In our health professions seminar class with Dr. Hutchins we heard from a local veterinarian and everything he said just really spoke to me. I just felt that was where God was calling me.”

Though initially nervous, Patterson is excited to begin work in the program.

“I’m looking forward to all of the opportunities that it’s going to open up for me, such as getting to meet professionals who are already in the field,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to working with Dr. Hutchins. I think she does a great job at connecting students to the right resources and the right people.”

Dr. Hutchins is confident that Patterson will thrive in the program and is eager to see her grow in her field of study.

“Morgan joins our biomedical science program this year having already demonstrated that she can handle rigor in the Honors Academy and her science courses, all while being a collegiate athlete,” said Dr. Hutchins. “Each of those alone is challenging! In addition, Morgan is incredibly humble and kind. I am excited to walk that road with her as she prepares for a profession in veterinarian medicine. She will be excellent.”

As Dr. Hutchins looks to the future of the program, she expresses her enthusiasm for the students and for the university’s positioning to help equip them for meaningful careers.

“Hannah, Morgan and other Biomedical Scholars who come through our program will take with them not only their academic training in the sciences, but also their Christian liberal arts education and worldview,” said Dr. Hutchins. “These things will help ground them as they become health care providers.”

Applications are still being accepted for the fall 2019 semester at Howard Payne University ( For more information about HPU, including the wide range of available financial aid options, contact HPU’s Office of Admission at 325-649-8020 or by e-mail at


Cutline: HPU graduate Hannah Justice (left) stands with junior Morgan Patterson (right). They are the first and second students, respectively, to enroll in HPU’s biomedical science program. Justice completed the program and graduated in May 2019.

HPU’s Dr. Craig Younce to return to Zambia with students

BROWNWOOD – February 20, 2019 – After a mission trip to Zambia in fall 2018, Dr. Craig Younce, assistant professor of biology, will return this March with a group of students to serve at a local orphanage. The trip, which will be from March 7-20, will help students unite their education with God’s call on their lives.

“In the fall of 2017 I attended a class offered by my church, Coggin Avenue Baptist Church, that changed my mind on what our purpose is.” said Younce. “That purpose is to show God’s glory to all the nations.”

The class, called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, prompted Younce to begin asking God how he could be a part of His purpose. That question was answered the following March, when Bryan Allen, a member of Younce’s Sunday school class, was unable to go on the 10-day trip to Zambia. Allen asked Younce if he was interested in taking his place.

“From the moment I got his text, I sensed God was telling me, ‘That’s what you need to do,’” said Younce. “You need to go on that trip.’”

Younce and members of his church left for Zambia in August 2018 and were able to share the gospel with community members of Namwala.

“We shared the gospel with locals and invited them to church. It was fascinating seeing members of the Zambian church talk because people would start to gather to listen,” said Younce. “It just kind of gives you a glimpse of what it might have been like when Jesus was preaching.”

While in Zambia, the group stayed for a few days at New Day Orphanage, which takes in children of all ages, cares for them until they become adults and provides them with education. The goal of the orphanage is to raise children to be like Christ so they can impact their communities when they grow up.

“I could hear God telling me that we needed to do something with them,” said Younce. “I began talking to Wes Wilcox and told him that HPU might be interested in helping the orphanage. When we were leaving he told me, ‘You say you’ll come back, but a lot of people say that because it sounds good when they’re here. I’m going to challenge you to actually do it.’”

When Younce came back to Brownwood he wrestled for a while with the question of how he and HPU could assist in Zambia.

“I talked with the orphanage and with my dean about what we could do,” he said. “We also coordinated with Sam Goff from Coggin Avenue Baptist Church, who has been teaching a series called Helping without Hurting. The key thing was figuring out how to provide support that they can take ownership of.”

Younce and Dr. Pam Bryant, dean of HPU’s School of Science and Mathematics, coordinated with New Day Orphanage on a plan to bring chemistry and biology majors from HPU to Zambia. While there, students will help the orphanage refine its science curriculum and help with science demonstrations.

“This year, the university is really stressing the life of the mind and the life of the Spirit,” said Younce. “It’s fascinating that, when all of this was coming to fruition, I wasn’t even aware that was going to be a focus.”

Younce hopes this trip will help show students how to bridge the gap between the life of the mind and the life of the Spirit by allowing them to incorporate both their education and God’s vision while serving.

“We are all created for a purpose and that is to carry out his mission,” he said. “If nothing else, one of the biggest things that Christ calls us to do is to serve. We all have different skills with which to do that. These students are getting an education and now they can apply it in a way of service.”


Cutline: HPU’s Dr. Craig Younce poses with two Zambian children while visiting a church in Namwala, Zambia.

HPU student and alumna judge area robotics contest

BROWNWOOD – February 11, 2019 – For the third year in a row, Howard Payne University provided arena judges for the TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) Area 15 Robotics Contest.

This year’s competition took place on January 19 in the gymnasium of the John H. Glenn Middle School in San Angelo with elementary and middle school participants. Students from Brownwood and Early also took part in the competition.

Stephanie Irene Tarigan, an HPU senior mathematics major from Brownwood, and Clara Octani Tarigan, a December 2018 graduate in engineering science, served as arena judges.

“Mrs. Laura Howard, the present coordinator of the contest, invited HPU to serve as judges this year,” said Dr. Hendra J. Tarigan, assistant professor of engineering science and director of HPU’s engineering science program. Dr. Tarigan accompanies the students each year. “In 2017 and 2018, Mrs. Angela Gau from Ballinger High School was the coordinator.”

Dr. Pam Bryant, dean of HPU’s School of Science and Mathematics, said she is proud of the students’ ongoing involvement in the community.

“Our science and math students have much to offer and I am pleased they have chosen to share their gifts in this way,” she said.


Cutline: HPU alumna Clara Tarigan (left) and senior Stephanie Tarigan recently served as arena judges for the TCEA Area 15 Robotics Contest.

HPU’s Hannah Justice accepted to first-choice medical school after completing Joint Admissions Medical Program

BROWNWOOD – January 18, 2019 – Howard Payne University senior Hannah Justice of Brownwood, the first HPU student to participate in the prestigious Joint Admission Medical Program (JAMP), has been accepted to her number-one choice of medical schools, Texas Tech University.

“Tech was my top choice for medical school and I was so relieved and excited it was a match,” said Justice, a biomedical science major. “JAMP provided so many valuable resources that made the preparation for medical school easier.”

Students from colleges across Texas who participate in JAMP interview with nine medical schools and have guaranteed acceptance to at least one. The students rank the schools based on the ones they would like most to attend. Their rankings and Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores are taken into account when matching each student with a medical school.

Justice ultimately ranked Texas Tech as her number one school, but she said that had not always been the case.

“Honestly, it wasn’t my number one choice from the beginning,” Justice said. “It was the interview that really piqued my interest. One of the reasons that I came to Howard Payne was because of the community that is here and that was really something I was looking for in a medical school. Texas Tech is very community-oriented and I felt that it was a place I could truly thrive.”

Justice was accepted into JAMP during her sophomore year at HPU. According to the JAMP website, the program was created by the Texas Legislature to support and encourage highly qualified students pursuing medical education. It provides students with educational and clinical learning opportunities to better equip them as they pursue careers in medicine. She learned about the program from Dr. Kristen Hutchins, associate professor of biology and JAMP faculty director at HPU.

“Hannah first felt God calling her into the medical field during one of our medical school tours her freshman year,” said Dr. Hutchins. “That was an exciting day for me, hearing Hannah share her heart during that drive home to HPU.”

During the summer after her sophomore year, Justice participated in her first JAMP internship at the Texas A&M College of Medicine.

“You’re required to participate in two summer internships,” said Justice. “The first summer is more focused on MCAT prep. You take classes that continue online through the fall and spring until you take your MCAT. It was very involved and very studious. In addition to the MCAT prep we had to take classes at the medical school level. It was exhausting at times.”

This past summer, Justice participated in her second internship, which took place at McGovern Medical School and was aimed at preparing students for the rigorous medical school interview process. She then took the MCAT and applied to nine of the medical schools in Texas, a JAMP requirement.

“I met the score requirement in the first round,” she said, “so the second summer internship was a lot less stressful because I didn’t have the MCAT looming over my head. A lot of the second internship was focused on preparing for interview season.”

On September 28, 2018, after Justice had completed her time at JAMP as well as her interviews, she requested that Dr. Hutchins help her with the reveal of her match results. Dr. Hutchins confirmed Justice’s match result through JAMP, wrote down the school’s name and put it in an envelope that Justice opened in front of her friends and family that evening.

Justice expressed her gratefulness for the JAMP program and the ways it prepared her for the huge transition into medical school.

“The community that it has given me has been a blessing,” said Justice. “Preparing for medical school is hard: mentally, academically and spiritually. My cohort of fellow JAMPers encouraged me and laughed with me and cried with me along this journey and made it so much more than a task to accomplish.”

After reflecting on the two-year journey leading up to her acceptance, Justice also spoke of the spiritual lessons learned.

“It taught me a lot about myself and who I am in Christ and that this is not something that I’m doing for myself,” she said. “It’s about using the gifts and talents that the Lord has given me to glorify Him. It’s scary to have really big dreams, but it’s a reminder that I can’t accomplish this in my own power. It’s very humbling, but it strengthened me a lot and made me more grateful to have my faith.”

Once she graduates from HPU in May 2019, Justice will attend medical school for four years and then participate in a residency program for three to five years to become board certified in a specialty of her choosing.

“Right now I’m just focusing on enjoying the time that I have with my family and friends and making the most of my senior year at HPU,” said Justice. “I’m currently just trying to prepare myself spiritually for the next four years of medical school. I’m excited for what the Lord wants to teach me and for how He wants to use me during medical school.”

Applications are being accepted for the fall 2019 semester at Howard Payne University ( HPU offers a variety of financial aid options, including scholarships for students from Brown County and surrounding counties. For more information about HPU, contact HPU’s Office of Admission at 325-649-8020 or by e-mail at


Cutline: Hannah Justice, a JAMP participant and future Texas Tech medical student, stands in front of HPU’s Winebrenner Memorial Hall of Science.

HPU’s School of Science and Mathematics introduces S.T.I.N.G.E.R. Lab

BROWNWOOD – January 17, 2019 – Howard Payne University’s School of Science and Mathematics introduced an innovative class this fall for students seeking to major in biology and a handful of other majors. The class has been named the S.T.I.N.G.E.R. Lab, which stands for Scientific Training for Inquiry-Guided, Experiment-Based Research.

“This lab is different than a traditional lab because it requires a lot more independent work,” said Dr. Gregory Hatlestad, associate professor of biology. “It was designed so that students would learn all of the techniques that you would need to be able to do research and then move into doing real research projects.”

This style of class was first implemented by The University of Texas and was so successful that other schools began to replicate the class. Dr. Hatlestad was able to implement that same style of teaching at HPU.

“Before I started working at Howard Payne, I was working at The University of Texas as an assistant clinical professor and my job was to teach one of these,” said Dr. Hatlestad. “UT is at the forefront of this type of lab, which has been very successful at increasing graduation rates, retention and GPA – everything that you want out of a course.”

During the first phase of the S.T.I.N.G.E.R. Lab, students are given packets and a certain amount of time to complete them. These packets provide them with the necessary protocols and techniques they need to complete the assignment and for use in future research.

“Once they learn all the techniques they need, they are actually going to be working on trying to figure out things that people don’t know already,” said Dr. Hatlestad. “So there is an element of unknown in which we are actually going to be doing real research.”

Students whose majors require them to take general biology are required to take a lab alongside it. This is typically the traditional general biology lab which meets regularly and is more scripted. Students now have the option of taking either the traditional lab or the S.T.I.N.G.E.R. Lab. One of the major differences between them is the self-paced nature of the S.T.I.N.G.E.R. Lab.

“The self-pace was really something that I was interested in,” said Mildreth Rodriguez, freshman biology major from Buda. “I can come in once a week or I can come in twice a week. It’s taught us a lot about time management and being able to figure things out on our own.”

The S.T.I.N.G.E.R. Lab has open hours so students can come to work on their projects throughout the week. Their hours and progress are tracked and they have to show that they were able to accomplish the assigned tasks. If students attempt experiments unsuccessfully, the experiments must be conducted again. While this adds a level of difficulty to the class, students are given guidance when needed and have the chance to correct their work.

“It’s much more based on learning how to do it right instead of getting it right the first time,” said Pablo Serna, freshman biology major from Fort Worth.

Ultimately, the students are challenged to think critically in the S.T.I.N.G.E.R. Lab and are given the opportunity to investigate queries a step further.

“That is the goal,” said Dr. Hatlestad, “giving students a better education and experience so they understand what it means to do research and what it means to be accountable for what happens in the lab.”

Applications are being accepted for the fall 2019 semester at Howard Payne University ( HPU offers a variety of financial aid options, including scholarships for students from Brown County and surrounding counties. For more information about HPU, contact HPU’s Office of Admission at 325-649-8020 or by e-mail at


Cutline: Mikala Meadows, a sophomore chemistry major from Newport, Arkansas, and a student in HPU’s S.T.I.N.G.E.R. Lab, prepares to extract plant DNA.

HPU upgrades lecture hall with help from Midland charitable foundation

Students in updated Winebrenner classroomBROWNWOOD – October 4, 2018 – Students in Howard Payne University’s School of Science and Mathematics began the fall semester in a newly updated classroom thanks to the generosity of the James A. “Buddy” Davidson Charitable Foundation of Midland.

Last semester, HPU received a grant of $207,000 from the foundation. The funds, designated for HPU’s Biomedical Science Program, included $150,000 to be used for an endowed scholarship in Mr. Davidson’s name and $57,000 to be used for new furnishings and fixtures in Lecture Hall 123 of HPU’s Winebrenner Memorial Hall of Science. One of the largest classrooms in Winebrenner, Lecture Hall 123 is used by the Biomedical Science Program and other academic programs.

The room’s stadium-style seating was replaced with large tabletop work spaces which allow for greater levels of collaboration. Additionally, the HPU facilities department replaced the existing tile flooring with carpet to reduce noise and create a warmer classroom setting. A new mobile podium/desk was added which provides faculty members and presenters with more flexibility and complements the updated furnishings.

“The updated lecture hall is beautiful,” said Dr. Kristen Hutchins, associate professor of biology and director of the Biomedical Science Program. “I was excited for my students to come back from summer break and see the upgrades. They were excited as well. We’re very grateful to the James A. ‘Buddy’ Davidson Charitable Foundation.”

The university has received significant support from the foundation in the past including funds for the James A. “Buddy” Davidson Chair of Christian Studies and for computers, furnishings and lab supplies for the university’s School of Nursing.

HPU is now enrolling for the spring 2019 semester. HPU offers a variety of financial aid options, including scholarships for students from Brown County and surrounding counties. For more information about HPU, contact HPU’s Office of Admission at 325-649-8020 or by e-mail at


Cutline: Students in HPU’s School of Science and Mathematics began the semester in a newly updated classroom thanks to the generosity of the James A. “Buddy” Davidson Charitable Foundation of Midland. Pictured here is Dr. Kristen Hutchins’ Health Professions Seminar course.

HPU professor and alumnus team up for forensic science workshop

Horizons campersBROWNWOOD – September 14, 2018 – This summer, Dr. Derek L. Smith, associate professor of chemistry at Howard Payne University, and Frank Ritter, 2017 HPU graduate and science teacher at Early Middle School, teamed up again to present a forensic science workshop. The former professor-student duo presented at the 4-H Horizons Camp held at the 4-H State Conference Center at Lake Brownwood.

“Representing big cities and small towns throughout Texas, more than 100 Horizons Camp kids from 10 to 14 years of age selected specific project areas of interest to them and spent six hours per day over five days working on fun and educational project-focused activities,” said David W. Smith, Horizons program director.

As part of the STEM-robotics track, Dr. Smith and Ritter guided 15 students in microscopic investigation of fingerprints and hair samples, whereby students classified fingerprints applied to glass slides and identified the structures present in human hair. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

“The opportunity to experience the enthusiasm of the Horizons Camp participants with regards to forensic investigations is a pleasure I shall not soon forget,” said Ritter. “I look forward to the possibility of future collaborations with both them and the HPU science department.”

Dr. Smith and other faculty members in HPU’s School of Science and Mathematics hope that enrichment programs in the community will remember that HPU represents an immediate resource for the academic development of students of all ages.

“We are eager to serve,” he said.


Cutline: Students participating in the 4-H Horizons Camp led by an HPU faculty member and an alumnus study images under a microscope.

HPU faculty member and alumnus jointly conduct forensic science workshop

BROWNWOOD – August 6, 2018 – Dr. Derek L. Smith, associate professor of chemistry at Howard Payne University, and Frank Ritter, 2017 HPU graduate and middle school science teacher in Early ISD, jointly conducted a forensic science workshop at the 2018 STEAM conference this summer at the Region 15 Education Service Center in San Angelo. The workshjoint seminarop was titled “Biological Techniques in Forensic Science.”

“These workshops are intended to provide public school teachers academic enrichment and equip them with supplemental exercises and activities that they may in turn share with their students,” said Dr. Smith. “Every science department is limited in some way, but we do enjoy some resources that are not common in the public school laboratory and whose application will enhance the familiarity of the secondary school teacher.”

The conference is held every summer, and HPU has been represented the past three years through the participation of Dr. Pamela Bryant, dean of HPU’s School of Science and Mathematics, or Dr. Smith. Ritter benefitted doubly in that he received continuing education credit for both conducting and attending the seminar.

“Dr. Smith and I worked closely during two of my three years in HPU’s physical science department,” Ritter said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to continue that collaboration on a peer level. I look forward to next year.”


Cutline: Dr. Derek Smith, HPU associate professor of chemistry (right), and Frank Ritter, HPU alumnus and Early ISD middle school science teacher, demonstrate comparison of simulated RFLP DNA electrophoresis blots. Blanket High School science teacher Jessica Dudley is pictured in the foreground.

HPU’s Dr. Derek Smith leads forensic science workshop for local elementary students

Dr. Derek Smith Forensic Science WorkshopBROWNWOOD – May 23, 2018 – During the spring 2018 semester, Howard Payne University’s Dr. Derek L. Smith, associate professor of chemistry, conducted a forensic science workshop for 35 local elementary students at the Texas 4-H Conference Center at Lake Brownwood.

The workshop was sponsored by the Andy Roddick Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide educational enrichment for low-income students.

The young investigators undertook blood droplet height-angle analysis as well as fingerprint collection and development with enhancement powders.

Dr. Smith praised the purpose of the Andy Roddick Foundation.

“These workshops provide an excellent opportunity for children of any social status –
disadvantaged or not – to explore current fields of study and form a familiarity that can lead to future exploration and professional opportunities,” he said.

In past years, Dr. Pam Bryant, dean of HPU’s School of Science and Mathematics, has presented workshops on astronomy and star viewing to similar groups with equal success.

“These opportunities are important for the participants and our faculty alike, as well as the larger community,” Dr. Bryant commented. “We are honored that education- and enrichment-based groups would invite us to participate.”

Drs. Smith and Bryant agree that the School of Science and Mathematics looks forward to leading another science-based, hands-on workshop next year and express thanks to the funding organizations and facilitators for their sponsorship.


Cutline: HPU’s Dr. Derek Smith conducts a forensic science workshop for 35 local elementary students.

HPU students give presentation at Texas Academy of Science meeting

Cooper presentingBROWNWOOD – May 16, 2018 – Two Howard Payne University chemistry majors recently presented at the 2018 Texas Academy of Science meeting at Midland College. Abraham Cooper, senior biochemistry and piano performance major from Early, and Richard Treviso III, junior chemistry major from Oak Cliff, each presented on different aspects of implementing cactus fiber and mucilage for water purification.

Faculty advisors Dr. Derek L. Smith, associate professor of chemistry, and Dr. Dennis Gibson, assistant professor of physical sciences, accompanied the students to the conference and, under their guidance, the students explored different aspects of the potential benefits of the abundant natural material that has been demonstrated to be effective at removing heavy metals from contaminated waters.

Treviso presentingTreviso confirmed that the gelling extract also reduces calcium and magnesium concentrations.

“Even if waters are not impacted by heavy metals, such as arsenic, the quality can be impaired by excessive hardness that is treatable with this method,” he said.

Cooper focused his presentation on the potential biocidal effects of the cactus fibers. To date, the natural fibers have only been applied to inorganic contaminants, but biological impurities may also be present.

“The results are preliminary but indicate that the water treated with fibers impedes the development of bacterial colonies on culture plates,” he said.

Dr. Smith said that, to his knowledge, this is the first application of this proven treatment method to this class of contaminant.

“This could be significant for communities where water sources are bacterial-laden rather than mineral-laden,” he said.

The trip was facilitated by faculty development funds.

“Those in the research group are greatly appreciative for the sponsorship that allows students to participate in technical conferences,” said Dr. Smith.


Cutlines: HPU senior Abraham Cooper of Early presents at the 2018 Texas Academy of Science meeting at Midland College.

Richard Treviso III, HPU junior from Oak Cliff, speaks to attendees of the 2018 Texas Academy of Science meeting.

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