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Landmark paper on bacteriophage genetic diversity includes 39 WKU students

Thirty-seven WKU undergraduate students, two WKU graduate students and two professors in the WKU Biology Department were part of an effort to sequence and analyze the genomes of bacteria-infecting viruses (bacteriophages) as part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Alliance (SEA).

The hundreds of genomes that were sequenced formed the foundation of a landmark study published April 28 issue of eLife. The study compared the genomes of 627 bacteriophages isolated from a single species of bacteria, and found a continuum of genetic diversity, rather than discrete groups within the population. (More: Read the eLife report.)

WKU students contributed 11 bacteriophages that they discovered and characterized through their work in a yearlong course-based research experience.

In the first semester, students take the Genome Discovery and Exploration course where they discover and characterize novel bacteriophages from the environment. During the second semester, students take Bioinformatics and learn how to annotate the genome of the newly sequenced bacteriophages. The students produce completely annotated genomes of novel viruses that are deposited in Genbank, the national DNA sequence database.

“We are very proud of the accomplishments of our students and we are very pleased to be able to contribute to the understanding of the most numerous biological entities on the planet,” said Dr. Rodney King, WKU biology professor. “It is particularly exciting to offer WKU students a challenging and rewarding course-based research experience and to see the excellent scientific products they are generating.”

Students listed as co-authors include (* denotes Gatton Academy student or graduate): *Grace Babbs of Paducah; *Cole Blair of Sandy Hook; Bradley Blankenship of Scottsville; Lee Calvert of Concord, North Carolina; Andrew Cardwell of Bowling Green; Charles Coomer of Louisville; Ashley Cox of Flatwoods; *Meredith Doughty of Bowling Green; Karlee Driver of Lafayette, Tennessee; Eli Estes of Hopkinsville; Jonathan Faughn of Bowling Green; *Hannah Graff of Alexandria; Jeremy Hall of Louisville,; *Samantha Hawtrey of Union; Joshua Hynes of Shelbyville; Charity Jackson of Port Orange, Florida; George Jones of Central City; Mackenzie Jones of Campbellsville; *Alex Kearns of Sanders; *Elizaveta Khenner of Bowling Green; *Allyson King of Florence; *Taylor Leet of Louisville; *Azlin Lewis of Owensboro; *NaKeya Owens of London; Kaysi Phillips of Nashville, Tennessee; *Lindsey Porter of Hillsboro; Heidi Sayre of Lawrenceburg; *Tyler Scaff of LaGrange; *Sarah Schrader of Bowling Green; *Lindsey Shain of Cox’s Creek; *Ananya Sharma of Bowling Green; *Erika Stairs of Clinton; *Vishnu Tirumala of Corbin; *Erin Walch of Alexandria; *Gretchen Walch of Alexandria; Brent Webb of Alvaton; and Spencer Wright of Liberty.

Graduate students listed as co-authors are Amanda Seaton of Hartford; and Prasanna Parthasarathy of India. Dr. Claire Rinehart, WKU biology professor, also is a co-author.

The eLife publication broadens scientists’ understanding of the vast diversity among bacteriophages and was authored by 199 faculty and 2,664 students at 81 institutions across the United States and at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. The result of this international collaborative effort is one of the most highly-authored papers ever published.

The Journal eLife publishes outstanding research in the life sciences and biomedicine, from the most fundamental and theoretical work, to translational, applied, and clinical research. The Senior Editors and Board of Reviewing Editors are among the most respected and accomplished individuals in their fields.

Read more about the project at http://www.hhmi.org/news/students-break-new-ground-understanding-genetic-diversity-bacteriophages

For information, contact Rodney King, rodney.king@wku.edu or (270) 745-6910; or Dr. Claire Rinehart, claire.rinehart@wku.edu or (270) 745-5997.

Contact: Dr. Rodney King, (270) 745-6910

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