Teaching Honors BI-202 Class: Involvement of the Students with SEA PHAGES Project
By Dr. Urszula Golegiewska, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences and Geology Department
I taught my very first honors class during the Spring 2011. The section was very small and I could devote a lot of time to every single student. The major part of the honors project is involvement in the SEA PHAGES (Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science) project built around a national experiment in bacteriophage genomics. Through participation in this project students learn general biology by isolating, naming, sequencing, and analyzing newly-discovered mycobacteriophages. Due to various factors Queensborough students are involved only in the in silico portion of the endeavor but still make significant contributions to the field of genomics as they learn how to think like scientists. The final annotations are submitted to the Gene Bank and Queensborough students are co-authors of several genomes. The best incentive was a publication in 2015 in Elife: “Whole genome comparison of a large collection of mycobacteriophages reveals a continuum of phage genetic diversity” by Pope et al. that listed as co-authors all the students involved in the project including 38 of Queensborough students. Every year one of the students presents the class data at annual SEA-PHAGES symposium showing that Queensborough is in the league with colleges around the country. The difficult part of the project is solely in silico work. It involves more abstract analysis on the viral genomes and dedication to study an adopted phage. The challenges also include the internet connection at Queensborough and sitting for the whole day on uncomfortable stools. The students present their research during the Queensborough Annual Honors Conference. It is a great event and I always feel proud seeing my students professionally dressed delivering professional presentations. Right now I am looking forward to the Spring 2016 semester and my largest honors class ever.