On June 8th I had the pleasure of representing our Phage Hunters class at the SEA Phage Symposium. The setting was beautiful at the HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus – the center of the Phage Hunting network for the weekend. There were students and professors from universities across the nation along with the leading scientists in the phage hunting world.
The symposium opened my eyes to the variety and passion that is present in the phage hunting community. While each university has the same lab manual and materials, each professor, TA, and university will make the phage program their own; Some schools annotated 4 genomes, others read scholarly articles on phage, while others kept journals, and still others (like us) got the chance to do individual research projects. The poster sessions gave the students and faculty the opportunity to share and discuss the many amazing aspects of phage hunting and their personal phage hunting experience.
Beyond the poster sessions, some students, myself included, had the opportunity to give a presentation. Again, the variety of interests and experiments was evident. Many students did in depth studies of their phages genome trying to learn as much as they can. I was able to learn about tmRNA, sequencing methods, effects of cations on phage, new clusters, new host mycobacteriua, Bacillus, and so much more. While our own class chose not to further explore Manatee’s genome and instead return to the lab, this symposium has taught me that there are still many facets of the genome that can be explored.
Along with student presentations there were also presentations from leading scientists: Dr. Rubin, Dr. Suttle, and Dr. Hatfull. Each had their own story to tell (not all related to phage hunting, like Dr. Rubin’s talk on different ways to learn more about fly brains). Dr. Suttle gave the group perspective on the range of genetic diversity that is in our world and how there are still many aspects of the virus’ genome whose function is unknown. Finally, the symposium ended with Dr. Hatfull who brought the year into perspective by looking at how phage hunters across the nation are isolating and annotating novel bacteriophages – each a unique addition to the world of phage.
The Johns Hopkins’ Phage Hunters class of 2011-2012 was a wonderful experience and community for all who participated. We are a part of a much larger phage hunting community and, while the symposium showcased the diversity in programs, at the core we are all curious students who were able to begin exploring the phantatsic world of phage. I want to thank my classmates, professors, and TAs for making the phage hunting adventure full of many exciting discoveries!