Phage Hunters Program 2011-2013: Academic Year

Our Phage Hunters program consisted of a two-semester laboratory sequence to which we recruited incoming freshmen who would not have been permitted to start the normal General Biology sequence. Each student recruited to the Fall 2011 course, BIO 110, was taking at least one pre-college course to satisfy admission requirements. This program was supported, in part, by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.


In the first semester, BIO 110, each student collected, isolated and purified a virus from soil samples they collected on campus. DNA was extracted from each purified virus and was characterized by each student preparing a DNA fingerprint. Electron micrographs also were taken of each virus. Samples of each virus were sent to laboratories at the University of Pittsburg for archiving and two were to be fully sequenced. Each student named and posted data on their newly discovered virus on the Phages DataBase website phagesdb.org.


In the second semester, the phage hunter students were enrolled in BIO 111, the first semester of General Biology lecture, and the second semester phage hunters laboratory course (a designated section of the BIO 111 laboratory). In the laboratory, each student prepared a full research poster on their first semester work and presented the poster at the F.E. Mapp Science Symposium. We also designed and conducted an experiment to focus on development of experimental design skills. Annotation of the complete DNA sequences of two viruses was the major focus of this course. Annotation involved identifying potential genes, choosing a start for each gene, verifying genes against national databases, and identifying potential gene functions. The semester concluded with a presentation of our findings by our students in the Department of Biology Seminar Series.