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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.

SEA-PHAGES IN THE NEWS

  • 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 knowledge.read more

    Related institution: Massey University

  • Thumbnail for La Sierra freshmen discover new viruses through national research program

    La Sierra freshmen discover new viruses through national research program

    Darla Martin Tucker

    La Sierra News | June 15, 2017

    La Sierra University freshman Casey Jang was pleasantly surprised—she knew it was possible, but really didn’t expect to find, and then name, a virus that is new to science.read more

    Related institution: La Sierra University

  • 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”...read more

    Related institution: Florida Gulf Coast University

  • 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 students....read more

    Related institution: College of Idaho

  • Thumbnail for Del Mar student takes home award for research on bacteriophages

    Del Mar student takes home award for research on bacteriophages

    Fares Sabawi

    Corpus Christi Caller Times | March 29, 2016

    Before John Ramirez, 29, decided to go back to school, he worked at Northwest Hospital in Calallen. There, he saw how tuberculosis affected people. "It's almost intensified when you see it," Ramirez said....read more

    Related institution: Del Mar College

  • Thumbnail for This scientific paper has 2,863 authors. How?

    This scientific paper has 2,863 authors. How?

    Danielle Wiener-Bronner

    Fusion | May 12, 2015

    The scientific journal eLife published a paper on viruses last month—specifically, the genetics of bacteriophages: viruses that infect, and replicate within, bacteria. By sequencing the genomes of individual bacteriophages, or phages, the authors were able to glean information about the genetic makeup of the viruses more broadly.... read more

  • Thumbnail for Students isolate potentially novel soil-dwelling viruses

    Students isolate potentially novel soil-dwelling viruses

    WPI News

    Phys.org | June 8, 2016

    After sifting through soil samples collected from across Massachusetts, then drilling down to analyze the DNA of viruses they found, a team of undergraduates at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) hit pay dirt—three potentially novel viruses.... read more

    Related institution: Worcester Polytechnic Institute

  • 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 favorite....read more

    Related institution: Western Carolina University

  • 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 program.read more

    Related institution: University of North Texas

  • 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 Pittsburgh....read more

    Related institution: Gonzaga University

  • Thumbnail for Durham Tech students present research at national symposium

    Durham Tech students present research at national symposium

    Charlton Budd

    Chapelboro.com | 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 Symposium...read more

    Related institution: Durham Technical Community College

  • 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 architecture....read more

    Related institution: University of Pittsburgh

  • Thumbnail for Freshman find

    Freshman find

    Kyrie O'Connor

    Houston Chronicle | Oct. 15, 2016

    Brian Blake Maxfeldt likes science just fine, but he didn't go to college expecting to make a discovery his first year. Nevertheless, Maxfeldt, who goes by Blake and graduated from Morton Ranch High School in Katy, discovered a virus that nobody had ever seen before.read more

    Related institution: LeTourneau University

  • 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,”...read more

    Related institutions: Cabrini University | Lehigh University

  • 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 freshmen....read more

    Related institution: University of Colorado at Boulder

Archiving Information 2021-22

The procedure for sending archiving samples to the University of Pittsburgh is largely similar this year, but please read carefully.

Note that you do not need to add beads to tubes anymore.

Contact Us/Questions

Please send any questions about the information below to Debbie (djs@pitt.edu) and Becky (rag4@pitt.edu).

Please read the latest Archiving Instructions at the link below.

https://phagesdb.org/protocols/96/

Archiving 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.

We are asking that you add a tracking number in the appropriate place on the form. We have rotating lab staff, and want to make sure all packages are accounted for.

https://forms.gle/EJHBmBsk1YRbo4gW6

Timeline

PLEASE ARCHIVE BY CALENDAR YEAR! That is, send all samples found in 2021 together, regardless of whether they were found in spring, summer, or fall.

You should send archiving samples for phages found in 2021 for arrival no later than December 17.

Shipping

Please be sure to include an up-to-date Archiving Report in the package. You can print one from your institution's page on seaphages.org.

Shipping Address

Attn: Becky Garlena
University of Pittsburgh
Langley Garage 120F
Langley Hall
Fifth and Ruskin Avenues
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
(412) 624 6976

DNA Samples

Just a note that DNA 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.

Archiving Information 2020-21

The procedure for sending archiving samples to the University of Pittsburgh is largely similar this year, with two important changes.

  1. Our shipping address has changed—see below for the new address.
  2. We are asking you to fill out a quick form to let us know what you're sending and help us track your package.

Contact Us/Questions

Please send any questions about the information below to Debbie (djs@pitt.edu) and Becky (rag4@pitt.edu).

Please read the latest Archiving Instructions at the link below.

https://phagesdb.org/protocols/96/

Archiving 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.

We are asking that you add a tracking number in the appropriate place on the form. We have rotating lab staff, and want to make sure all packages are accounted for.

https://forms.gle/pHq9LHyYiuSJPCHF7

Timeline

You should send archiving samples for phages found in 2020 for arrival no later than December 16.

Shipping

Please be sure to include an up-to-date Archiving Report in the package. You can print one from your institution's page on seaphages.org.

Shipping Address (NEW THIS YEAR)

Attn: Becky Garlena
University of Pittsburgh
Langley Garage 120F
Langley Hall
Fifth and Ruskin Avenues
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
(412) 624 6976

DNA Samples

Just a note that DNA 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.

Sequencing Information 2020-21

Sequencing Information 2020-21

It's been a weird year, but through many trials and adjustments we have still arrived at phage DNA sequencing season! This post contains information about sending your SEA-PHAGES phage DNA samples to the University of Pittsburgh for sequencing. Because of the pandemic and other issues, several things have changed since previous years, so please read carefully.

Contact Us/Questions

Please send any questions about the information below to Dan (dar78@pitt.edu) and Becky (rag4@pitt.edu).

Sample Submission Form

Please submit the information about the samples you are sending using 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.

NEW THIS YEAR: We are asking, if possible, that you add a tracking number in the appropriate place on the form. We have rotating lab staff, and 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.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfdhZpw1LHL42zxAotEVqhmrr8RBN9-kuPL_42ioYmuBU-4-Q/viewform

Quantity

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.

NEW THIS YEAR: Because many schools were not able to perform phage discovery as usual during the fall but still want to do bioinformatics in the spring, we will need some extra DNA samples to be donated to the Genome Exchange. If you have managed to extract more good quantity, high quality DNA samples than you need for your class, we would welcome those as well. Please indicate "Donate to Exchange" on the Notes field of the form. And thanks for helping out your fellow SEA-PHAGES institutions!

Deadlines

Semester Schools

Please send your genomic DNA so that it arrives in Pittsburgh by Friday, November 20.

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 us.

Guidelines for DNA

Buffer

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.

Amount

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.

Concentration

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).

Labeling

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.

Shipping

Packaging

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.

Address (NEW THIS YEAR)

Attn: Becky Garlena
University of Pittsburgh
Langley Garage 120F
Langley Hall
Fifth and Ruskin Avenues
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
(412) 624 6976

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 dabaltze@ncsu.edu 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.

Upcoming Events

Cohort 14 Phage Genomics Workshop (Dec 2021)

December 6, 2021 to December 17, 2021

Recent Events

2021 GENES Faculty Workshop

June 15, 2021 to June 16, 2021

Forum Activity

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