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.


  • Thumbnail for Students "Hunt" - and Discover - Bacteria-killing viruses

    Students "Hunt" - and Discover - Bacteria-killing viruses

    CSU CONNects | Nov. 15, 2016

    “The goal of the course, part of a national pedagogical program, is to get students doing research early, so they can see what it’s like and learn the scientific process,” explains Dr. Edgington, Associate Professor of more

    Related institution: Southern Connecticut State University

  • Thumbnail for First-years discover viruses, analyze DNA

    First-years discover viruses, analyze DNA

    Kate Nussenbaum

    The Brown Daily Herald | Feb. 10, 2012

    Sixteen first-years watched with excitement as their screens loaded the sequence of 59,625 nucleic acids that comprise the DNA of “Job42,” the virus a student in their class had discovered, isolated and named during the fall semester. “Each of them codes for something,” said Jordan more

    Related institution: Brown University

  • Research paper with 2,863 authors expands knowledge of bacteriophages

    Science Daily | May 11, 2015

    We know that bacteriophages are viruses that infect and replicate within bacteria. We know that they are the most abundant organisms on Earth. But we don't know much about their genetic more

    Related institution: University of Pittsburgh

  • 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 Undergraduate phage hunters showcase research in University Libraries exhibit

    Undergraduate phage hunters showcase research in University Libraries exhibit

    Alec Masella

    Virginia Tech Library News | April 3, 2018

    From local soil to a global database, new viruses have been uncovered, analyzed, and recorded by undergraduate researchers in Virginia Tech’s College of more

    Related institution: Virginia Tech

  • Thumbnail for Special UNLV class takes a hands-on approach to discovering viruses

    Special UNLV class takes a hands-on approach to discovering viruses

    Denise Rosch

    KSNV NBC Las Vegas | Sept. 28, 2017

    Say the word "virus" and most people think of disease -- something to be avoided at all costs. However, at UNLV, students are getting their hands dirty to discover something that could keep us healthy. read more

    Related institution: University of Nevada Las Vegas

  • 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

  • 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 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 Queens University student discovers a virus strain

    Queens University student discovers a virus strain

    Reid Creager

    The Charlotte Observer | April 16, 2016

    Sydney Dishman’s new pet isn’t cute and certainly isn’t something you’d want to cuddle with. But she feels good just thinking about it. Her “pet” is named Rex16, after the Queens University of Charlotte mascot and her year of graduation. Rex16 is a bacteriophage species she discovered while completing her honors research thesis, investigating bacteriophages in local soil more

    Related institution: Queens University of Charlotte

  • Thumbnail for One student gets to name lab discovery

    One student gets to name lab discovery

    Oscar Santiago Torres

    Eagle News | Aug. 27, 2014

    An agar plate lies still. Omnicron has destroyed the layer of bacteria inside the plate, leaving plaques or dark holes 2 mm in diameter. Omnicron is a virus replicating itself inside the plate. The discovery of this virus belongs to Tasha Baer, a Florida Gulf Coast University student from the 2013-14 Virus Hunters more

    Related institution: Florida Gulf Coast University

  • 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 Bio major considered dream come true for department

    Bio major considered dream come true for department

    Melanie Greenberg

    Loquitor—Cabrini College Student Media | March 5, 2011

    Surrounded by only her thoughts and glass beekers, one Cabrini student spends much of her time diligently working in the Iadarola Science Center. Katie Mageeney, senior biology major and math and chemistry minor, is anything but an average student. “Katie is definitely dedicated to her lab work,” more

    Related institutions: Cabrini University | Lehigh University

  • Thumbnail for  Steele commended by Nobel Prize winner for her work

    Steele commended by Nobel Prize winner for her work

    Barbara Phillips

    Archer County News | April 21, 2016

    It is not often that a freshman in college is approached and commended for research by a Nobel Prize winner, but that is exactly what happened to Archer City graduate, London Steele, now a freshman at Baylor more

    Related institution: Baylor University

  • Thumbnail for UWF Biology And Chemistry Crews Team Up To Hunt Phages

    UWF Biology And Chemistry Crews Team Up To Hunt Phages

    Bob Barrett

    wuwf 88.1 | May 12, 2015

    The University of West Florida has been chosen to pioneer a unique collaboration between its chemistry and biology departments. Let’s start off with an important more

    Related institution: University of West Florida

Microbacterium Phage Paper

Microbacterium Phage Paper

Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2019 Microbacterium Genomics Workshop. The paper we collectively worked on and wrote has now been published and is available at PLOS ONE. A must-read for anyone phage hunting using a Microbacterium host!

SEA-PHAGES and PHIRE Contributors to the Microbacterium sp. Paper

Genomic diversity of bacteriophages infecting Microbacterium spp.

SEA-PHAGES and PHIRE Contributors

PDF Version

SEA-PHAGES participants

HHMI at University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Ilzat Ali

Aleem Mohamed

Emily Davis

Acacia Eleri Jones (Keele University)

Indian River State College

Josh Moreno

Brandon Bryant

Ariana Burch

Rhode Dorissaint

Cayce Douthitt

Jeffrey Garafalo

Jaclyn Kuiack

Samuel Marcillon

Jordan Norus

Matthew Parks

Kelly Wilse

LaSierra University

Steven Tran

Gillian E. Miller

Rhiannon R Abrahams

Daniel C Bazan

Beglau C Bryceson

Ethan C Blaylock

Jessica D Choi

Shannon K Grewal

Elmira V Hernandez

Daniel J Kim

Kay K Kim

Yumin Lee

Michael K Linde

Meagan B Lopez

Emily Pangalila

Markell A Parker

Rachel C Specht

Ming Chung Teng

Benjamin Toledo

Houting Yu

Nancy Kalaj

Natasha S Dean

Lehigh University

Katie Volpe

Mount Saint Mary College

Kaitlyn A. Barber

Amanda Barnett

Destiny R. Bettica

Olivia Bracco

Erica C. Eack

Elizabeth Halpin

Camren Iorio

Nasayah S. Israel

Nicholas J. Mahoney

Jessica Musacchio

Chandlir M. Radcliffe

Andrew Velazquez

Sabina A. Zarod

Nebraska Wesleyan University

MacKenzie Batt

Cora Svoboda

Elijah Washburn

Morgan A. Shipley

Austin Reed

Maudie Melcher

Elaine Hart

Dayton D. Dolincheck

Johan Vizoso-Marino

Jordan Brozek

Dan Novinski

Laurel Heskett

Nyack College

Maria I. Paschalis

Mariana Moraes

Angela Bryanne DeJesus

Sucely Ponce Reyes

Maridalia Lillis

Seton Hill University

Nathan Baker

Jordan Barzensky

Jaret Beechy

Rachael Bowers

Kalen Brown

Keelyn Brown

Tiffany Burden

Sidney Chapman

Joseph Constantin

Lauren Cosey

Ashly DeFalco

Faith Dent

Viktoria Farian

Alyssa Ference

Taylor Fusco

Joseph Greico

Heather Haas

Donald Hamilton

Kayla Harris

Anna Heitzenrater

Caitlynn Hirak

Victoria Hrach

Ella Hudson

Urriah Huffine

Gabriella Jablonski

Danielle Jones

Daleitha Johnson

Hannah Judy

Kennedy Kehew

Kathryn Kingman

Harrison Klein

Lauren Kosslow

Elizabeth Kuniega

Matthew Laird

Paige Lamberson

Kyle Lovisone

Haley Lucas

Molly Lukacs

Brianna Marks

Alexandra Masocco

Sierra Megonnell

Rebecka Meyer

Saige Minear

Kylie Moffat

Samantha Moon

Taner Moore

Zoe Moran

Baylee Musser

Megan Nestor

Carson Offman

Natalie Opalka

Allison Pavlan

Geno Petrarca

Victoria Pickford

Elise Poll

Brittany Postma

Layna Reinhart

Chase Rucker

Matthew Sanchez

Whitney Sasso

Steven Semekoski

Kallie Shaffer

Abbey Sitko

Abigail Skatell

Maurisa Sloan

Nicole Susi

Tristan Tinney

Lauren Villone

Sarra Wiles

Hannah Woitkowiak

Jeffrey Yurek

Southern Connecticut State University

Dathan Stone

University of Central Oklahoma

Katie Chalifoux

Jessica Mejia

Carina Gutierrez

Micah Byrne

Zachary Stone

An Ngoc Nguyen (Oklahoma City Community College)

University of Wisconsin River Falls

Sidique F. Bachelani

Alix Bookler

Byrgen Buetow

Courtney A. Carlson

Keisha H. Carlson

Beau D. Clemmensen

Emily M. Dailey

Dakota C-M. DeWindt

Kayla M. Doucette

Jonathan A. Duclos

Amanda R. Edstrom

Samantha Flandrick

Brenna Franke

Rachel B. Furey

Tinothy A. Gelatt

Cassie Glynn

Blake R. Hansen

Alyssa M. Hass

David H. Hensley

Eric W. Hoffstatter

Serena K.L. Jacob

Kiley K. Jones

Pamela J. Lisowski

Dawson P. Luttrell

Bailey K. Paulus

Morgan A. Pliszka

Hannah Preder

Cassandra Pugh

Jared M. Ricchio

Evan P. Ruesch

Karie S. Seif

Lizbeth A. Servin-Meza

Courtney E. Solberg

Paul H. Timm

Sam P. Wang

Michelle M. Weinberg

Ryan S. Wright

Madison A. Zobrist

University of Maine Honors College

Dakota Archambault

Katharynne Hebert

Alan Baez

Joshua Passarelli

Western Carolina University

Paige M. Robinson

Boman T. Wiseman

Graceanne E. Stanley

Joshua M. Radey

Celeste E. Smith

Winthrop University

Hallie V. Smith

PHIRE students

University of Pittsburgh

Alyssa Betsko

Gabrielle Gentile

Kerry Iles

Audrey Jonas

Emily Kukan

Alexandra McDonough

Patrick Rimple

Johnathan Schiebel

Ann-Catherine Stanton

Leah Szpak

Megan Ulbrich

Robin Tomczak

Sequencing Information 2019-20

It's sequencing season! This post contains some information on sending your SEA-PHAGES phage DNA samples to the University of Pittsburgh for sequencing. Most of the information is the same as last year, but please note that our lab has moved to a new building and the shipping address has changed.

Sample Submission Form

Please submit the information about the samples you are sending via a quick 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. 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. We recommend that you send at least one backup sample in case one of your samples fails our QC. Please indicate any order of preference, if you have one.


Semester Schools

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

Quarter Schools

Please send your genomic DNA so that it arrives in Pittsburgh by Friday, January 8.

If you will have trouble meeting these deadlines for any reason, please contact Dan Russell at

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) 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 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 to 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.



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.


Dan Russell
303 Clapp Hall
Department of Biological Sciences
4249 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

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. Contact Andy Baltzegar at for pricing and details.

Upcoming Events

Recent Events

Cohort 13 Phage Genomics Workshop

June 15, 2020 to June 26, 2020

12th Annual SEA Symposium CANCELLED

June 5, 2020 to June 7, 2020

Forum Activity

mdgainey posted in Terminase, large subunit

Debbie Jacobs-Sera posted in PE/PPE proteins

cdshaffer posted in Pham not found in Starterator