The SEA-PHAGES team at Lee University presents images of bacteriophages named in honor of Dr. Mark Walker (shown center right with his wife Udella) and Dr. Paul Conn (shown center left)
In the fall of 2022, a team of Lee University freshmen began a new research experience discovering and characterizing novel bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria). The students’ research and characterization is conducted through SEA-PHAGES (Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science).
Under the direction of Lee faculty Dr. Joseph Daft, Dana Perry and Dr. Lori West, a team of students spent the fall collecting soil samples, isolating viruses and characterizing these viruses.
The students even named the viruses in honor of Dr. Mark Walker, president of Lee, and Dr. Paul Conn, chancellor of Lee.
In collaboration with Dr. Tagide deCarvalho at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, the team was able to obtain transmission electron microscope images of the newly isolated phages.
“The SEA-PHAGES program has been a wonderful opportunity for our students,” said Dr. West. “They have been able to experience research first-hand as freshmen. We are proud of our team and are excited to see what the future holds for them.”
The students presented their research at the Natural Sciences Poster Symposium at Lee University this past November. At the symposium, they presented Dr. Walker and Dr. Conn with a framed image of the phages that were named in their honor.
This experience was made possible through the acceptance of Lee University into the SEA-PHAGES program administered by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education division and Dr. Graham Hatfull’s team at the University of Pittsburg.
SEA-PHAGES is a two-semester, discovery-based undergraduate research course that begins with digging in soil to find new viruses. The research progresses through a variety of microbiology techniques and eventually to complex genome annotation and bioinformatic analyses.
Two of the students’ viruses were submitted to the University of Pittsburg for genome sequencing. Students have begun annotating these genomes and plan to have their annotations submitted to GenBank for publication later this year.
For more information about the program, contact Dr. West at email@example.com or 423-614-8275.
The SEA-PHAGES team (aka the “Phage Invaders”) is pictured here with images of their bacteriophages