Virus Hunting

Phage research

Do you want to discover and describe a virus that no one else has ever seen? Do you want to discover new genes? Then come virus hunting with us!

The Biology Department offers a yearlong research experience for incoming students. In the fall semester (BIO 113), students learn how to isolate and purify phages (viruses that infect bacteria), describe the growth characteristics of their phage, characterize its morphology via electron microscopy, and isolate and purify their phage DNA to have it sequenced.

In the spring semester (BIO 114), students use bioinformatics tools to analyze
their viral genome. Students identify genes in the sequence and they may even discover and name new genes. They will compare their phage genome to a database that contains over 500 sequenced phage genomes, and they will propose hypotheses to explain the differences
and similarities they observe by comparing genomes.

This year long project will be open to a limited (16) number of students.


Who should take this course?  Any student intent on research or interested in finding out if research is the right career path.  Any student who likes the challenges of discovery and of the unknown.

Will this course be too challenging for me?  Although this course is more time consuming than a regular introductory course, we don’t expect it to be more difficult. Bio 113 will meet three times per week for a total of eight hours, while Bio 114 will meet twice a week for a total of four hours. Students should also expect to work on their research outside of class time (sometimes on week-ends).

Phage researchHow does this course fit in my potential major?  For potential Biology, BMB (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), or ES (Environmental Studies) majors, BIO 113 will replace BIO 111 in the fall semester. For potential HS (Health Science) majors, BIO 113 will replace BIO 110 in the fall semester.  All these majors require BIO 112 in the spring semester. Phage students take BIO 114 concurrently with Bio 112 in the spring.

How do I apply? The application is closed for the 2015-16 academic year.

More questions? Contact Prof. Matthew Kittelberger at, Chair of the Biology Department, or Nikki Shariat, Assistant Professor of Biology, for further information.