The Hopkins Phage Hunters lab is the JHU version of a project lab sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through their Science Education Alliance. HHMI provides training for instructors and teaching assistants, as well as support (material and moral) for a few dozen of these labs nationwide. At JHU, this course is open only to freshmen, and there are no prerequisites. If students register early enough, they’re in, regardless of their intended major or their research experience.
The goal of the participating students is to isolate and characterize a bacteriophage. Phage are viruses that infect bacteria. They are ubiquitous and highly diverse. That means that if a student isolates a phage, that phage almost certainly has never been isolated before.
This project lab arose from programs developed by Graham Hatfull of the University of Pittsburgh. Microbe magazine, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology, recently published an excellent article on Professor Hatfull, his background and his work.