Name of research project:Unlocking the Secrets of Two New Viruses With a Unique Type of Blueprints
Name of faculty research mentor: Richard Alvey
Name of research grant: Eckley Summer Scholars and Artists Endowment
Research Summary: My research project is on bacteriophages, which are viruses that infect bacteria.
Phages, like all other viruses, introduce their genetic material (most commonly double-stranded
DNA) into a host cell in order to propagate themselves. The objective of my proposal
is to examine a branch of phage evolution that is vastly different from the majority
of previously known phages. Specifically, I will focus on exploring phages believed
to carry their genetic information in the form of single-stranded DNA.
How has Illinois Wesleyan prepared you for conducting research?
Illinois Wesleyan is a member of the Science Education Alliance - Phage Hunters Advancing
Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) program, a laboratory section that
I was selected to partake in during my freshman year. Through this program, I was
able to experience authentic research and gain first-hand knowledge of common methodologies
used by microbiologists. I was able to apply these techniques in order to isolate
my very own bacteriophage.
What do you hope to gain from this experience as you look forward to your future?
With this invaluable experience in hand, I hope to gain insight on what it means to
be both a student and a researcher. As someone interested in a career involving the
control of infectious pathogens, the opportunity of researching a topic that has direct
relevance allows me to integrate myself into direct and relevant research. This fellowship
allows me an opportunity to explore the intricate evolutionary relationships between
hosts and pathogens which provides a brief glance at the multifaceted field of microbiology.
What’s been your favorite part of conducting research so far?
My favorite part of conducting research so far has definitely been developing and
conducting my own unique research project. My research mentor and fellow members of
the research lab also made this experience enjoyable and rewarding.
In your opinion, why is it important for undergraduate students to participate in
I believe it is important for undergraduates to experience research because it allows
for collaboration between faculty and students. Additionally, it is a good way for
students to appreciate the field that they’re interested in. Interacting with Ria
Patel, a fellow research lab member, and Dr. Richard Alvey, my research mentor, has
resulted in invaluable experiences. Dr. Alvey has provided guidance in the undertaking
of various experience and feedback on the results obtained. Ria and I often consult
with each other on our projects and give each other advice and bounce ideas off of
each other, which I believe is part of what research is all about.