When I went to college and had to pick a major, I vacillated between biology and mathematics, which were, respectively, my favorite and best subjects. I ended up choosing biology because of a deep belief that I would never get over my love of biology, and that has proven to be true. The great things about academic jobs are that you are always learning and sharing what you’ve learned with students, and you have the flexibility to explore new fields of inquiry. This is why my research is shifting to studying the interactions between bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) and their bacterial hosts. How did that happen?
The most substantial change in science teaching I have seen in the last decade is this shift to incorporate authentic research experiences early in the science curriculum. In biology, that movement has been greatly aided by the genomics revolution. It is now possible to isolate DNA and sequence complete genomes for things as small as viruses and for things as large as elephants in a matter of days.
At Gettysburg College, we are finding novel bacteriophages and analyzing their genomes as part of Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Alliance-PHAGES program. This has opened up a completely new field of inquiry for me and for first-year students in Bio 113/114. These students are involved in generating and analyzing genomics data. Making sense of those data is where the hard work starts. Students are contributing to foundational knowledge in genomics that they can pursue for their four years at Gettysburg College. How cool is that?
Biology department chair and Prof. Véronique Delesalle grew up in Montreal, Canada, and spent summers with her grandparents in the Béarn region of southwestern France. She has degrees from both McGill University and the University of Arizona. Her research is in the field of evolutionary ecology, focusing on reproductive strategies in flowering plants and, more recently, on host-pathogen interactions in bacteria and their viruses. If she is not in the classroom or with student researchers, she may be on a hiking trail in Patagonia or Bhutan while listening to the Talking Heads or flamenco music.
In 2012, Delesalle was part of a team of College faculty who helped secure a four-year, $1.3 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Part of HHMI’s CUREs initiative, the grant enhances scientific research opportunities for students through a series of revamped courses, summer research opportunities, science peer mentoring, and other interdisciplinary initiatives.
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