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New Biology Program 'Off to a Great Start' at USciences

By Lauren Whetzel-Siburkis

bio studentsMore than a dozen first-year students in the Department of Biological Sciences at University of the Sciences have spent the past semester developing research skills in Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s prestigious Science Education Alliance: Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science Program (SEA-PHAGES). USciences was one of only 17 U.S. colleges and universities selected to offer this program during the 2015-16 school year.

“The SEA-PHAGES lab has given first-year students the opportunity to perform authentic research,” said Trevor Cross, a lab technician at USciences. “The past three months have reinforced my beliefs that this course truly fosters an active learning environment.”

Earlier this fall, students embarked on a year-long project to find and characterize their very own genetically novel bacterial virus using a pile of dirt from their hometown. At the end of the school year, they will be able to publish their findings in an international database with other scientists from around the world.

“We had 13 students who collectively discovered 15 novel phages, meaning two of them discovered more than one phage,” said Cross. “The students sequenced two phage genomes, both with over 200 predicted genes, so next semester will challenge them to ideally annotate both genomes.”

So far, students in the program have learned how to conceptualize research material as well as perform the physical manipulations required of them to advance their research.

“It was great to see the students start the program excited and continue to excel throughout the semester,” said Cross. “But it was particularly incredible to see their confidence levels spike with this lab experience, because this is a process that resonates with my own experience [in SEA-PHAGES].”

Click here to watch a video from the inaugural SEA-PHAGE class

Categories: News, Feature Story, Students, Faculty, Academics, Misher College, Department of Biology,