Kristen Butela, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, and several of her students were among 199 faculty and 2,664 students listed as authors on a research paper published in April 2015 in the open-access science journal eLife. The paper “Whole genome comparison of a large collection of mycobacteriophages reveals a continuum of phage genetic diversity” describes a joint effort to compare the genomes of 627 bacteriophages isolated from a single species of bacteria. It found a continuum of genetic diversity, rather than discrete groups within the population. Phage isolation and analysis was performed by a consortium of academic institutions, illustrating the substantial benefits of a disseminated, structured program involving large numbers of freshman undergraduates in scientific discovery.
It found a continuum of genetic diversity, rather than discrete groups within the population.
At Seton Hill, the research team used iPads in the lab to keep track of data, while MacBooks made the genome analysis possible. Phages are important to researchers in part because it is believed that they might offer an alternative to antibiotics. This research project was part of Seton Hill’s ongoing participation in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) project.