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SEA-PHAGES at USciences

Embark on a year-long journey to find and characterize your very own, genetically novel bacterial virus.

Phage-Hunters Laboratory

Research and discovery are fundamental to science and essential skills for students. That’s why USciences offers a unique, year-long laboratory course that empowers first-year students to become adept in these fundamental scientific processes.

USciences is a member of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s prestigious Science Education Alliance Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) program. As part of its membership in SEA-PHAGES, USciences houses an innovative Phage-Hunters Lab and offers a course that enables freshmen in the Department of Biological Sciences to find and characterize genetically novel bacterial viruses (bacteriophages).

An Invaluable Experience

During the fall semester of the Phage-Hunters Lab course, students:

  • Conduct hands-on, guided research in microbiology and molecular biology
  • Discover, isolate, and name bacteriophages
  • Obtain electron microscope pictures of their bacteriophages
  • Publish their findings in the international phages databases, where they are available to the public and other scientists

During the spring semester of the Phage-Hunters Lab course, students:

  • Collaborate with classmates and instructors using bioinformatics to further characterize and annotate the genomes of novel phages discovered in the fall semester
  • Publish genomes in GenBank, an international repository of genetic sequences
  • Present their discoveries at the annual USciences Research Day
  • Earn the opportunity to present their research at the national SEA-PHAGES Symposium

Some genomes will be selected for DNA sequencing over the winter break. All discoveries made during the course may form the basis of future research projects and publications in scientific journals. Throughout the yearlong course, students develop professional and scientific skills that will benefit them in their careers.

Recent student presentations have included:



C. Nicole Sunnen, PhD
Assistant Professor & SEA-PHAGES Faculty


University of the Sciences
600 South 43rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4495