RADNOR, Pa. (August 8, 2014) – A student research team comprised of rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors from area colleges and universities presented their scientific findings on bacteriophages that they isolated and characterized as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Colloquium, hosted by Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education (SEPCHE) at Cabrini College.
Of the seven-student team, two were Cabrini College students.
Bacteriophages, sometimes abbreviated to phages, are viruses that infect bacteria. With the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria, bacteriophages are receiving more attention for their potential medical benefits.
While thousands of varieties of phage exist, only 82 types of arthobacter phages were known until this summer when the student research teams identified 23 more, a 28 percent increase. Arthrobacter phages infect a class of bacteria whose gene products can remove toxins from the environment.
These students from Arcadia, Immaculata, and Neumann Universities and Cabrini College made this remarkable discovery during a collaborative summer class at Cabrini called SEPCHE SEA‑PHAGE, a handy acronym for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education’s “Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Sciences.”
SEPCHE members are Arcadia University, Cabrini College, Chestnut Hill College, Gwynedd Mercy University, Holy Family University, Immaculata University, Neumann University, and Rosemont College.
From late May through early July, these seven students attended the SEPCHE SEA‑PHAGE class four hours per night, four days a week, to accommodate students’ summer work schedules.
Earning three academic credits from their college or university, students were exposed to real-world laboratory experiences, including microbiology, molecular biology, soil ecology, and electron microscopy techniques, among others.
As the students continue their research, they will conduct genome annotations of their DNA-sequenced phage genomes and perform bioinformatics studies in comparative proteogenomics.
Students will present their findings from this course again at a symposium in the fall and at an honors conference in March 2015.
This summer undergraduate research experience is affiliated with the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) through the course’s instructor, David Dunbar, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at Cabrini College.
By participating, Dunbar can nominate up to two students to receive a prestigious summer internship with the HHMI labs. In many cases, student interns at HHMI work alongside Nobel Prize-winning scientists.
SEPCHE SEA‑PHAGE was a pilot course, made possible through the generosity of presidents and chief academic officers at colleges that are part of SEPCHE.
Members of SEPCHE's STEM faculty workgroup developed the research experience and nominated students for the class from their respective institutions.
“The PHAGE course is a tremendous example of what is possible when faculty, staff, and administrators combine efforts to advance student learning,” said Beth Moy, executive director of SEPCHE.
About Cabrini College Students do extraordinary things at Cabrini College, a residential Catholic college welcoming learners of all faiths, cultures, and backgrounds.
Since its founding in 1957 by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the College has provided a transformational Education of the Heart, focusing on academic excellence, leadership development, and a commitment to social justice.
Cabrini enrolls about 1,300 undergraduates in more than 30 majors, pre-professional programs, concentrations and minors on its serene 112-acre campus located 30 minutes from Philadelphia.
The College also enrolls about 1,400 students in graduate and professional studies programs at its main campus in Radnor, Pa., and at 13 off‑site locations.
Share a story with us.