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$10,000 HHMI grant supports genomics research at WKU

Dr. Rodney King and Dr. Claire Rinehart, both professors in WKU’s Department of Biology, recently received a $10,000 award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to support WKU students engaged in genomics research.

WKU students conduct genomics research in the Genome Discovery and Exploration class. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

WKU students conduct genomics research in the Genome Discovery and Exploration class. Five newly discovered phages characterized and annotated by WKU students were released in 2016 to the public by Genbank. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

This is the third year that WKU has received this award. Students in the Biology Department’s Genome Discovery and Exploration class isolate and characterize unique viruses from the environment.

These students then take the department’s Bioinformatics course and learn how to annotate newly sequenced viral genomes. This unique hands-on, inquiry-based program was initiated by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Alliance and is designed to engage new undergraduates in the process of doing scientific research.

Through their efforts in this yearlong, course-based research experience, students ultimately contribute new information to the scientific community in the form of annotated viral genomes that are published in Genbank, the national DNA sequence database.

41 WKU students contribute information to Genbank database

Five newly discovered phages characterized and annotated by 41 students in WKU’s Genome Discovery and Exploration course were released in 2016 to the public by Genbank. The phage names, student authors/hometowns and Genbank accession numbers are:

  • Arthrobacter phage KellEzio: Kelly Lynch of Glasgow; Milan Doan of Paducah; Justin Paisley of Vine Grove; Katherine Allen of Kevil. Accession: KU647626
  • Arthrobacter phage Mudcat: Elizabeth Oates of Central City; Connor Brown of Bowling Green; Christopher McDaniel of Bowling Green; Kaitlyn Wathen of Louisville; Allison Thompson of Liberty; Michael Goedde of Owensboro. Accession: KU647628
  • Mycobacteriophage Gruunaga: Noah Crews of Bowling Green; Matthew Broadbent of Cerulean; Colin Baker of Louisville; Longi Li of Bowling Green; Michael Squire of Owensboro; Hannah Watkins of Mayfield. Accession: KX576638
  • Mycobacteriophage Badger: Stevie Hoyng of Bowling Green; Austin Beaver of Hawesville; Melissa Camargo of Bowling Green; Lincoln Chasteen of Auburn; Maritza Chavez of Bowling Green; Rohan Deshpande of LaGrange; Jenna Ellis of Sparta; Olivia Gearner of Morehead; Kimberly Ibisate of Monticello; Malia Latimer of Louisville; Maria Long of Mount Washington; Kayla McKnight of Corydon, Indiana; Craig Meers of Rineyville; Eric Parker of Park City; Millicent Ronkainen of Hodgenville; Eura Shin of Morehead; Eayvon Smith of Bowling Green; Stefan Stryker of Wilmore; James Styers of Bardwell; Jeremiah Wayne of Henderson. Accession: KX550442
  • Mycobacteriophage Baehexic: Amber Carroll of Russellville; Sherafghan Khan of Hopkinsville; Davis Elliott of Jeffersonville, Indiana; Xavier Brickeen of Hickory; Jacob McDavid of Grayson. Accession: KX683875

A grant from KBRIN (Kentucky Biomedical Infrastructure Network); Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health Grant 5P20GM103436) partially supported this project and has expanded this classroom-based research experience to nine additional schools throughout the Commonwealth.

Contact: Dr. Rodney King, (270) 745-6910 or rodney.king@wku.edu; or Dr. Claire Rinehart, (270) 745-6892 or claire.rinehart@wku.edu

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