The SEA-PHAGES Laboratory is a laboratory course at Detroit Mercy sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Science Education Alliance.

The lab is designed to give students a unique mentored research experience in their freshman year.

Students will be part of a larger national consortium to isolate and characterize new bacteriophage (viruses that infect bacteria). The program duration is one full year.

“It was mind-blowing that through this class I was able to actually discover and name a novel bacteriophage and complete research on its genome and possible protein construction, all in my first year of college.”

—Alex Jackman, Student

How it works

In the Fall semester, students will collect soil samples from a variety of environmental sources.

From those samples, bacteriophage will be isolated, purified and amplified in the laboratory.

The morphology of purified phages will be examined by electron microscopy.  Phage genomic DNA will be purified and characterized by restriction enzyme analysis and then DNA will be sent to a sequencing center to be “decoded”.


In the Winter semester, upon receiving finished genome sequences, students will annotate genomes, i.e., assign genes and functions, via bioinformatics tools.

Bacteriophages represent one of the major catalysts for evolutionary change in biological systems. These nano-sized particles are viruses which infect host – bacteria and then carry out their life cycles. Phages have the capacity to shuttle not only between different bacteria but between different bacterial species, sometimes carrying bacterial genes with them. This form of lateral gene transfer is hypothesized to be a major contributor to the emergence of bacteria with new properties, i.e. acquired antibiotic resistance. Developing an understanding of the actual role of phage in these and other environmental processes and their own rapid evolution are exciting areas of research that encompass diverse disciplines such as microbiology, molecular biology, bioinformatics/genomics and ecology.

“My whole major changed because of this class. I was able to realize and gain a new passion.”

—Andrea  Sandoval, Student

Become part of a research team your freshman year

Become part of a research team that isolates, identifies and characterizes unique phages from nature as we seek to uncover their roles in the environment and evolution as a SEA-PHAGES Scholar.

Sequence of activity graphic


For more information, contact: Dr. Stephanie Conant, Associate Professor, Biology (

Identified and named SEA PHAGE, Fall 2015

Identified and named SEA PHAGE, Fall 2015


Do you want to participate in this amazing research opportunity?

Apply today!

If so, you'll receive:

  • 2 credits of BIO 1210 – Introductory Biology Laboratory in the fall semester

  • 2 credits of BIO 2200 – Research Laboratory Basics

  • 3 credits of BIO 1040 – Introduction to Bioinformatics in the winter semester (two-semester sequence required for ReBUILD scholars)

Preferred students will be:

  • Interest in scientific research

  • Commit to a full year of the course: fall and winter semester courses

  • Freshmen Biology and Biochemistry majors

Apply today!