The official website of the HHMI Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science program.

The SEA-PHAGES Program

SEA-PHAGES (Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science) is a two-semester, discovery-based undergraduate research course that begins with simple digging in the soil to find new viruses, but progresses through a variety of microbiology techniques and eventually to complex genome annotation and bioinformatic analyses.

The program aims to increase undergraduate interest and retention in the biological sciences through immediate immersion in authentic, valuable, yet accessible research. By finding and naming their own bacteriophages, students develop a sense of project ownership and have a ready-made personal research project at a fraction of the cost of traditional apprentice-based research programs. Some of the positive effects of the SEA-PHAGES program have been reported here.

SEA-PHAGES is jointly administered by Graham Hatfull's group at the University of Pittsburgh and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Science Education division.


  • UMass Inclusive Excellence Initiative Continues for Third Year

    University of Massachusetts Amherst News and Media Relations | Oct. 14, 2020

    Connor says, “We are delighted with our students’ progress and the power of SEA-PHAGES to excite and engage students in research regardless of their prior experience and background.” She adds, “Courses like SEA-PHAGES teach research skills as part of the curriculum, offering a much more inclusive approach to STEM fields and engaging students early in research experiences.”read more

    Related institution: University of Massachusetts Amherst

  • Columbia State students place first in scientific research at state academy

    Jay Powell

    Columbia Daily Herald | Feb. 3, 2021

    Columbia State Community College can now add another first-place accolade to its esteemed alumni, this time in the category of scientific more

    Related institution: Columbia State Community College

  • Thumbnail for Round Rock Cedar Ridge grad earns scientific honor

    Round Rock Cedar Ridge grad earns scientific honor

    Mike Schoeffel

    Austin American-Statesman | Feb. 28, 2017

    Isabel Delwel, a junior at the University of North Texas, was chosen to participate in the 2017 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Exceptional Research Opportunities Program. One of Delwel’s professor’s, Dr. Lee Hughes, encouraged Delwel to apply for a spot in the more

    Related institution: University of North Texas

  • Thumbnail for Biology major chosen for research at MIT

    Biology major chosen for research at MIT

    Drew Sterwald

    FGCU 360 | June 2, 2016

    Santiago Yori already has research experience under his belt that most biology majors would envy. But he’s taking it to a new level this summer working alongside scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A veteran of FGCU’s elite Honors “Virus Hunters” more

    Related institution: Florida Gulf Coast University

  • Thumbnail for WKU 2012 Goldwater Scholarship Recipient Charles Coomer

    WKU 2012 Goldwater Scholarship Recipient Charles Coomer

    innovateKY/YouTube | April 24, 2012

    Charles Coomer, a junior in the Honors College at WKU and the son of Evell and Don Coomer, has been involved in microbiological research for two years. In the lab of Dr. Rodney King, associate professor of biology, Coomer is characterizing viruses that infect bacterial more

    Related institution: Western Kentucky University

  • Thumbnail for Biology 2.0

    Biology 2.0

    Andrea Gaul

    Baylor Arts & Sciences Magazine | May 9, 2017

    Baylor University has implemented a new kind of introductory biology lab that has proven successful in keeping students excited and engaged through hands-on more

    Related institution: Baylor University

  • Thumbnail for Students in interactive course look to discover, name phages

    Students in interactive course look to discover, name phages

    Marlon Morgan

    Western Carolina News | Sept. 30, 2015

    Western Carolina University student Sean Kent didn’t pick the course, but when he saw he was registered for it, the name “Phage Hunters” immediately got his attention. Brooke Burns also found she was placed in the course. After hearing so many other freshmen at orientation say they were excited about WCU’s newest biology/chemistry course, she, too, decided to keep it. Now she says it’s by far her more

    Related institution: Western Carolina University

  • Thumbnail for Durham Tech students present research at national symposium

    Durham Tech students present research at national symposium

    Charlton Budd | June 27, 2016

    Two Durham Tech students were given the chance to present their research at a national symposium earlier this month. Qina Mo and Peter Said presented their research describing the isolation and characterization of two viruses that infect bacteria at the 8th annual SEA-PHAGES more

    Related institution: Durham Technical Community College

  • Thumbnail for Going viral: C of I students attend HHMI symposium

    Going viral: C of I students attend HHMI symposium

    The College of Idaho—Student News | Aug. 4, 2015

    Jetblade. The name might sound like the newest Marvel superhero to hit the big screen, but it’s actually the newest bacterial virus analyzed by College of Idaho more

    Related institution: College of Idaho

  • Thumbnail for Freshmen participate in huge research study on tiny viruses

    Freshmen participate in huge research study on tiny viruses

    CU Boulder Today | May 1, 2015

    A new study appearing this week in the scientific journal eLIFE about the rapid evolution of small viruses that infect bacteria includes 59 University of Colorado Boulder co-authors, all of whom conducted research for the paper as more

    Related institution: University of Colorado at Boulder

  • Thumbnail for A summer of sequencing

    A summer of sequencing

    Joseph McClain

    Ideation | Sept. 6, 2013

    It was the summer that the freshmen ruled the sequencer. Technically, the six William & Mary students who logged heavy lab time with a state-of-the-art Ion Torrent gene sequencer had finished their freshman year and therefore did their summer work as rising more

    Related institution: College of William & Mary

  • Thumbnail for Invisible Friends

    Invisible Friends

    Story by Joel Smith; photos by Rajah Bose

    Gonzaga—The Magazine of Gonzaga University | Aug. 15, 2016

    They may have goofy names, but these students’ microscopic pets are serious science. A junior in college, Vina Tran already has a bona fide scientific discovery to her name. Go ahead and look her up on the Actino-bacteriophage Database, a compendium of biological findings maintained by the University of more

    Related institution: Gonzaga University

  • Thumbnail for Issue #1 of PHAMILIA Journal

    Issue #1 of PHAMILIA Journal

    PHAMILIA | Nov. 1, 2021

    The Ibadan Bacteriophage Research Team, an undergraduate SEA-PHAGES team at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria announces the launch of its first journal issue PHAMILIA. This is the very first undergraduate research journal focused on bacteriophage biology. It showcases all student and faculty team members of the team, as well as publications on diverse subjects of bacteriophage biology from the team and other guest more

    Related institution: University of Ibadan

  • ‘Virus Hunters’ get hands dirty in UConn class

    Brett Donovan

    the Chronicle | Nov. 30, 2018

    University of Connecticut students involved in a unique learning experience are getting their hands dirty — more

    Related institution: University of Connecticut

  • Thumbnail for Young Māori scientist discovers virus

    Young Māori scientist discovers virus

    Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

    Māori Television | April 22, 2018

    Young, Māori scientist Anezka Hoskins has discovered a new virus and is hopeful that it will spark curiosity amongst Māori to push boundaries of more

    Related institution: Massey University

SEA Genome Announcment Workflow

Dear SEA Faculty,

We’re thrilled that you’ve signed up for the workflow to write a genome announcement this year as part of your SEA-PHAGES course. We’re writing to share a few things that you should note:

1. Template:
Please download the latest version of the QUBES resource for writing an MRA. This resource is updated each year based on feedback and, this year, uses a new template format. Here is a direct link to the updated QUBES resource:

New Genome Announcement Template

2. SRA Number
In addition to a GenBank accession number, you will need to include the accession number to a Sequence Read Archive (SRA) for any phage included in your manuscript. The SEA Team will prepare your SRA for you once you’ve requested for it using the following form. Typically, the SRA should become available at NCBI within a month of your request. We recommend requesting the SRA as soon as possible:

3. Publication fees

The SEA Team is still in the process of negotiating discounted publication fees for those of you who do not have access to funds for the regular publication fee. We will provide an update when we have more information. For now, we intend for all genome announcement manuscripts that you write to first be internally peer-reviewed by the SEA (through the workflow) and to then be submitted to BioRxiv, a pre-print server that hosts manuscripts that become indexed and searchable on PubMed. Once in BioRxiv, manuscripts can then be easily submitted to MRA.

4. Internal Review

When you are ready to submit your manuscript for "internal review" by the SEA program, please email your manuscript and figures to with the subject line "Genome Announcement Manuscript for Review". We anticipate beginning the process of internal review in May. If you need your manuscript reviewed sooner, please let us know.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to Vic Sivanathan ( Excited to support you and your students publish your discoveries!


The SEA Team.




2023 SEA Symposium FAQ

Below are some guidelines to help you and your students prepare for the upcoming symposium. These include guidelines for:


March 21, 2023:          Deadline to register for the Symposium.
March 21, 2023:          Deadline for abstract submission.
March 23, 2023:          Those selected to give talks will be notified.
April 13, 2023:               Deadline to upload Posters and Poster-videos to the symposium website.
April 14 – 16, 2023:     Attend the symposium.



Who should register?
All SEA faculty, and all SEA student-researchers from the 2022 - 2023 academic year, are invited to register and attend the 2023 SEA symposium.

How do I register?
All SEA faculty members will receive instructions and a registration link by email on March 6, 2023. You will be asked to forward a registration email to your students. Registration will close March 21, 2023.


Who should submit abstracts and posters?
SEA Faculty are responsible for submitting all abstracts and posters. Poster abstracts will be submitted via the program website (See link within your institution's homepage on, whereas the final posters will be uploaded to the symposium meeting website. Instructions for abstract and poster submissions are provided below.

How many posters should be submitted?
We encourage each section of SEA students to submit one poster that describes their SEA research from the 2022 – 2023 academic year. If your school has multiple SEA sections, PHAGES or GENES, you may choose to submit one poster for each section or research project, or you can choose to submit one poster that summarizes the work of many sections or projects. Faculty are also welcomed to submit posters describing SEA-related research that goes beyond their PHAGES and GENES courses.

What is the format for each poster?
Posters should be prepared to be used in two ways, and both are due by April 13, 2023.

  • For a live presentation: Posters should be prepared as a single Powerpoint slide using the following template, and saved as a PDF file. During the poster session, presenters will refer to this single slide PDF when presenting.
    Download the Poster Template and Example here.
  • For asynchronous viewing:  With hundreds of posters being presented, not everyone will be able to visit your poster during the poster session. As such, we ask that you also prepare a 5-minute video recording of the author(s) presenting their poster. This recording will be uploaded to the symposium site ahead of the symposium so that all "video-posters" are available throughout the meeting. Please add closed captioning to your video. Video software like Zoom can be used to both record the presentation and add closed captioning.

What should I include in my abstract(s) and poster(s)?
Given that the symposium will happen during your ongoing research semester, we recognize that posters will likely feature a project that is a “work in progress”. This is a great opportunity for you to discuss your research with your SEA colleagues and get feedback to inform your ongoing research. Therefore, we encourage you to include the following items in your poster, adding or subtracting from this list as you see fit.

i. goal(s) of your project(s),
ii. methodology, especially if it includes techniques that are not core to the SEA projects,
iii. findings, whether they be complete data figures or early observations,
iv. research or questions that will be explored next, in the remainder of the semester or beyond,
v. questions related to your research that the SEA community (i.e., poster attendees) might be able to provide insight on.
vi. and of course, the usual poster items such as your school logo, poster title, and author information.

Your abstract will represent a summary of what will be included in your poster and can primarily focus on items i, iii, iv from the list below. There is a 3,000 character-limit for abstracts.

What is the format for the poster session?

The poster sessions will be live sessions hosted in Gathertown, which is a virtual space designed as a yacht where participants can move around using the arrow keys on their keyboard and can connect with others via video and audio based on proximity.

In this virtual space, each submitted poster will have an assigned space, and a poster presenter should stand by their poster. As an attendee walks up to a poster, their video and audio will connect with the poster presenter. A link at each poster allows the attendee and presenter to both view the single poster slide at the same time. A video tutorial about the yacht and the poster session will be provided soon.

Here are a couple of additional logistics.

  • Each poster should be co-presented by an instructor and student.
  • The poster session on Saturday will be for even-numbered posters, whereas the poster session on Sunday will be for odd-numbered posters.  Poster presenters can locate their poster number on the Symposium meeting site (Whova platform), and should then plan to present at their respective poster session.

Here are a couple of recommendations.

  • While any individual student is unlikely to be able to visit all the posters being presented during the dedicated poster sessions, collectively your group of students may be able to. Much the same way in which a few members of a lab who attend a scientific meeting return to share the science they learned with the rest of the lab, we encourage you to consider organizing a post-symposium lab group meeting where your students can share with the group what they each learned from the various posters they attended. If you are considering implementing this, it may be worth informing students of your plans before they attend the symposium.
  • Since all symposium attendees will continue to have access to the symposium meeting site for several months after the symposium is over, we encourage you to consider engaging your students with the various video-posters, particularly those that were not on the same yacht as your students, as part of their ongoing PHAGES and GENES research.

How do I submit my abstract(s)?
Once you are signed in at, links to add, modify, or view an abstract are provided at the top of your institution page. Abstracts should be submitted between March 6 – 17, 2023.

How do I submit my poster(s)?
Once you have submitted your abstracts, SEA staff will send you a unique link for each poster. With this unique link, you will be able to upload your single-slide poster as well as your video-poster to the Symposium Meeting Website. There are 4 steps to uploading your video-poster. A Step-by-Step guide can be downloaded here. Video-posters should be submitted by April 13, 2023.


Yes! If you would like your abstract to be considered for a talk, you can indicate so during abstract submission. If your abstract is selected for a talk, you will be notified by March 23.
We encourage you to submit a poster (and poster-video) even if you are selected to give a talk, since the poster session is an additional and important opportunity for faculty and student co-authors, and other symposium attendees to interact and discuss research.

What are the formats for talks?
We have 3 types of sessions for talks:

  • SEA Research Sessions: These sessions will include several back-to-back 10-minute talks (+3 minutes for Q&A). Talks will be presented live. Speakers will be invited to a practice session in the weeks prior to the meeting so that they are familiar with the technology.
  • SEA Lead Scientist Session: This 50-min presentation will feature our SEA-PHAGES lead scientist, Graham Hatfull.
  • Keynote Session: The keynote presentation by Karine Gibbs will be presented in two parts.
    • Part.1 will be a pre-recorded presentation that will be made available to all attendees the week of April 3, and
    • Part.2, which builds on Part.1, will be a live presentation during the symposium. All attendees should watch Part.1 ahead of the symposium. We encourage faculty and students to watch and discuss Part.1 together.


How will symposium attendees be able to interact?

The entire Symposium will be hosted in Gathertown, a virtual meeting platform. This means all attendees can connect with one another, via video and audio, throughout the meeting.

  • Talks will be hosted in the conference rooms in Gathertown, and attendees will be able to walk up to a virtual microphone to ask questions. Attendees can also use the live chat to ask questions.
  • Posters will be hosted in the poster rooms in Gathertown, and attendees will be engage with poster presenters by video and audio during the poster session. Anyone unable to attend a poster during the dedicated poster session can use a messaging feature for each video-poster outside of the poster session.
  • For all other times, including socials, we encourage all attendees to wander the virtual spaces in Gathertown built for the Symposium. You will be able to interact with one another via video and audio, and you can also interact with games, watch HHMI shows, and more! We encourage attendees to use this space to meet between or after sessions to discuss science, or to simply catch up with old friends and to meet and make new friends.

What are important dates?
March 21, 2023:          Deadline to register for the Symposium.
March 21, 2023:          Deadline for abstract submission.
March 23, 2023:          Those selected to give talks will be notified.
April 13, 2023:               Deadline to upload Poster-videos to the symposium website.
April 14 – 16, 2023:     Attend the symposium.

Sequencing Information: 2022-23

It's almost sequencing season!

Contact Us/Questions

Please send any questions about the information below to Dan (

Sample Submission Form

Please submit the information about the samples you are sending using this Google Form. This will help us keep track of samples, correct any spelling errors, and make sure your samples are accounted for. Please fill out a copy of this form for each sample you are submitting. The best time to fill it out is as you are getting your shipment packed, so that when your box arrives, we'll already have the information on your phages in our database.

If possible, please add a tracking number in the appropriate place on the form. Our shipping situation is still not 100% normal, and we want to make sure all packages are accounted for. Please note whether each sample is a "Priority" or "Backup" in the Notes field, along with any other info we should have.


Each SEA-PHAGES school may have two genomes sequenced per Bioinformatics section that it is teaching during the current academic year. Please indicate any order of preference, if you have one.


Since Becky has moved on to a different job, we're a little more shorthanded than usual this year. Getting samples in early, if you have them ready, is much appreciated!

Semester Schools

Please send your genomic DNA so that it arrives in Pittsburgh by Tuesday, November 22.

Quarter Schools

Please send your genomic DNA so that it arrives in Pittsburgh by Tuesday, January 10.

If you will have trouble meeting these deadlines for any reason, please contact us.

Guidelines for DNA


Samples that are resuspended in TE are problematic, since the EDTA may interfere with enzymatic shearing of the DNA. You can resuspend your DNA in Elution Buffer (Tris), T(1/10)E, or in purified water.


We need a minimum of 4 µg (micrograms) of genomic DNA. If you're in the ballpark of this number but not quite there, contact Dan and Becky to see if it's okay.


At least 40 ng/µl. Ideal is 100-300 ng/µl. If you're above 300 ng/µl please consider diluting to a workable concentration and workable volume. Shipping volumes less than 20 µl is not recommended. Keep in mind that spec-based quantifications (like Nanodrop) count all absorbance at 260 nm, not just genomic DNA, so they often overestimate the real concentration. Err on the high side of the amount of DNA you send.

Gel Picture

Please submit—either via email or in the shipping box—an image of the gDNA being run on an agarose gel. We use these to look for sample integrity (not already sheared/degraded) and purity (no RNA).


Please clearly label the tubes you are sending with the name of the phage as it appears on PhagesDB. Don't label tubes using student's initials only, or other ambiguous names like "Phage1" or "PittPhage". If possible, put a small circular sticker on the top of the tube and write the phage name only on it.


Please ship samples, as described below, for delivery to Pittsburgh on Mon-Thurs. We sometimes have issues with Friday deliveries, and don't want any samples to sit over the weekend.

Also, we are unable to receive samples from Nov 23 to Nov 28, and again from Dec 22 to Jan 3. Please avoid shipping during these times.


We prefer standard microcentrifuge tubes, and strongly recommend wrapping the caps with Parafilm to prevent spilling or evaporation. The tubes can be packed into a 50 ml conical tube with some KimWipes to stabilize them during shipment. If shipping overnight (preferred), you can actually just send the samples at room temperature, as the DNA should be fine for 24 hours in transit. If shipping on a slower schedule, you should use cold packs. Aim for delivery to Pittsburgh on Tuesday-Friday. If shipping near holidays, please check with us about when we'll be around to receive samples.

You can include a packing slip with any information you think we should have about the enclosed phages.


Attn: Dan Russell
University of Pittsburgh
303 Clapp Hall
4249 Fifth Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
(412) 624-6976

Sequencing Additional Samples

For the past several years, the Genomics Sciences Laboratory at NC State has provided high-quality, for-cost sequencing services to schools in the SEA-PHAGES program who wish to sequence additional genomes beyond those allotted by the program. The charge is usually $250 per genome for sequencing. Contact Andy Baltzegar at for pricing and details.

Archiving Samples

Just a note that archiving samples should be sent to the same address as above, and so if it's convenient to you, you can send DNA samples and archiving samples together in a single box.

Current Events

2023 SEA Faculty Meeting

June 2, 2023 to June 5, 2023

Upcoming Events

Recent Events

2023 SEA Symposium

April 14, 2023 to April 16, 2023

Forum Activity

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