Skip to main content
Intellect

New underclassman research program for microbiology majors kicks off this fall

Freshman and sophomore microbiology majors at Brigham Young University have a new opportunity this fall to participate in an innovative research program recently initiated by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to collect, analyze and possibly publish data on previously unknown viruses.

BYU is among 12 universities selected this year to be part of the Science Education Alliance aimed at preparing future scientists through hands on science education. Twelve others began the program last year.

Each of the 25 students in the program will collect a soil sample, isolate a virus from it, and after DNA sequencing, will analyze how his or her virus infects bacteria and how it compares to other virus strains. Such bacteria-infecting viruses are called "bacteriophages," which explains the program's name: "Phage Hunters."

"These students are going to see the project through from the very start," said Sandra Burnett, microbiology professor and co-organizer of the program at BYU. "From dirt samples to a sequenced virus genome, they will see images of their virus, and get to name it."

The techniques and strategies of the program have been tested at the Howard Hughes Institute facilities to streamline students' learning. Schools that began the program in fall 2008 reported that 90 percent of the students succeeded in isolating their own virus.

"What I love about this is that we can take a freshman clear through the scientific method in a relatively small amount of time," said Don Breakwell, professor of microbiology and the other organizer of the program at BYU. "They get a feel for how science really is."

Howard Hughes Medical Institute provides materials and training for the program. It also offers a network for students and professors at different universities to connect, share results and help each other solve problems. Such collaborative research with freshmen and sophomores is unprecedented, Burnett believes.

"It's not like a lab class where you have a cookbook and go through and know how the experiment ends," Burnett said. "These are going to be viruses that potentially have never been seen before."

Students will have the opportunity to present their findings at conferences, and if they discover previously unidentified virus strains, some of their findings may qualify for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Students who will be freshmen or sophomores in fall semester 2009 can apply for the program by clicking on the "Phage Hunters" link at http://mmbio.byu.edu.

Writer: Camille Metcalf

Related Articles

data-content-type="article"

Going cashless to prevent COVID-19 was useless, new BYU microbiology study finds

May 12, 2022
A new study published in PLOS ONE from BYU scientists finds that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is almost immediately nonviable if deposited on a cash banknote. The virus actually shows greater stability on plastic money cards, with the live virus still being detected 48 hours after initial deposition, but no viable virus was detected on either cash or card that was randomly sampled in the study.


overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection=false overrideCardHideByline=false overrideCardHideDescription=false overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText= overrideTextAlignment=
data-content-type="article"

BYU student’s research solves an icy dwarf planet mystery

May 09, 2022
The dwarf planet Haumea has befuddled modern scientists for years. New BYU research details the planet's creation and solves one of astronomy's puzzles.
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection=false overrideCardHideByline=false overrideCardHideDescription=false overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText= overrideTextAlignment=
data-content-type="article"

When it comes to buying stuff, who do you trust to sell it: Government, nonprofits or for-profits? BYU study says...

April 26, 2022
Covid-19 tests were in short supply two months ago, but now testing options abound, from free tests mailed by the U.S. government to those available from pharmacies and nonprofit healthcare providers. All other factors being equal, is there an advantage to accessing a test through any one of these avenues?
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection=false overrideCardHideByline=false overrideCardHideDescription=false overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText= overrideTextAlignment=
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection=false overrideCardHideByline=false overrideCardHideDescription=false overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText=