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Education and Phage Hunting Programs

Education Programs

The data contained in this databases come from many sources, largely from the work of students across the globe who are engaging in authentic research courses sponsored by Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Alliance. Phagehunting lends itself well to educational settings that have included middle school, high school, undergraduate and graduate students. The structure of multiple milestones along the process of isolating and characterizing bacteriophages allows for punctuated approaches that fit well in classroom settings. Some of the education programs that supply data to this database are listed here.


The Science Education Alliance (SEA) is a project of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Undergraduate and Graduate Programs group that works with science educators at colleges and universities to advance science education. The premier project is the SEA-PHAGES Project (Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Sciences). Students around the globe are isolating and characterizing phages and entering their data here. The program consists of a 2 semester laboratory course (typically delivered in place of traditional biology I & II labs). More than 100 college and universities have participated in the program since its inception in 2008. You can find more information about the program and how to participate at HHMI’s SEA-PHAGES website and the SEA-PHAGES Program website.

Key research and educational goals are described in the paper, Exploring the Mycobacteriophage Metaproteome: Phage Genomics as an Educational Platform.

Satellite Programs

Faculty from colleges and universities who participate in the SEA-PHAGES program have obtained funding for distinct phagehunting programs in their localities. One such program is the Small Genome Project of the Kentucky Biomedical Infrastructure Network Small Genomes Discovery Program (KBRIN). Faculty at surrounding institutions are implementing phagehunting programs in conjunction with Western Kentucky University under the direction of Dr. Rodney King.

Mycobacterial Genetics Course

Since 2008, researchers from the labs of William Jacobs at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Graham Hatfull at the University of Pittsburgh in conjunction with KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV have offered a two-week intense Mycobacterial Genetics Course. It is a version of the phagehunting program offered to students who attend University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (UKZN) and other universities of South Africa at the Westville Campus of UKZN in Durban, South Africa. This workshop combines the isolation and purification of novel bacteriophages with genome characterization of mycobacteriophage genomes found in previous years. A highlight of the 2 week course is that each student will see the virion particles of their phages under the electron microscope. Preliminary mycobacterial genetics experiments using phages are integrated into the course.


The PHIRE Program (Phage Hunters Integrating Science & Education) is home to University of Pittsburgh undergraduate students who are members of the undergraduate students Hatfull lab. Each student has an individual project that utilizes phages that are found. You can check the Hatfull lab website for project summaries. The PHIRE program began in 2001 with an HHMI Professorship grant for Dr. Hatfull. Through the years, students have developed research skills that prepare them for graduate programs and advanced science degrees. From 2001 – 2013, undergraduate students mentored high school students in a robust phagehunting research program, and together they have found more than 300 a bacteriophages to hosts that include Mycobacteria, Gordonia, Rhodococcus, and Corynebacterium. In addition the PHIRE Program sponsored 8 high school teacher summer workshops in that time period, providing "Phage in a Box" to their classrooms. More than 3000 high school students have participated in isolating bacteriophage experiments.