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The Department of Biological Sciences at University of the Sciences will offer a new and exciting, discovery-based research program to supplement its traditional undergraduate curriculum next fall. That’s because USciences was one of 17 U.S. colleges and universities selected to participate in Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s prestigious Science Education Alliance: Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science Program (SEA-PHAGES) during the 2015-16 school year.
“The SEA-PHAGES lab will give first-year students the opportunity to perform authentic research, and then publish their findings in a database with other scientists around the world,” said Peter Berget, PhD, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. “In this special laboratory section, students will embark on a yearlong project to find and characterize their very own, genetically novel bacterial virus.”
Here’s how it works: Accepted first-year students who are interested in participating in SEA-PHAGES next school year are required to submit a brief letter explaining their interest in the program –along with their enrollment deposit– to the USciences Admission Office. From there, the letters of interest for the program will be reviewed, and acceptance will be granted on a first-come, first-serve basis; thus early responses will result in a higher likelihood of enrollment in this program.
Students selected to participate in the SEA-PHAGES program will take the same introductory biology lecture section as students enrolled in the traditional laboratory sections. However, they will be doing different experiments that will require more time and effort compared to their peers in the traditional laboratory sections. These efforts will be reflected in more earned credits, as well as the opportunity for students to add their results to a national database, present research at the annual SEA-PHAGES conference, and potentially publish research in a scientific journal.
“Students who have taken part in this program at other institutions across the country speak enthusiastically about the skills and opportunities it provided them,” said Dr. Berget. “After taking the course, first-year students will have a more realistic view of research that gives them the confidence and skillset to pursue additional research opportunities in other laboratories.”
Sean Carroll, PhD, vice president for science education at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, said this program is designed to make young students excited about their education and future career paths in science and healthcare.
"It also makes students who weren’t sure about their degree of interest in the life sciences a lot more engaged," he said.