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Phage Research

Academics / Departments & Programs / Biology / Research / Phage Research

Calvin’s biology department offers a special research program for a select group of first-year students. In this two-semester program, you’ll gather specimens and isolate a unique bacterial virus, called a “phage.” You will use research methods to characterize and analyze your phage, and then catalog your data in an international DNA sequence database.

Program benefits

  • Experience research and scientific discovery in your first year at Calvin—great preparation if you hope to do further undergraduate research.
  • Learn biology by doing biology
  • Earn the same number of credits as students in the regular biology sequence
  • Use cutting-edge genomics research tools
  • Share results, resources, and expertise with a network of select colleges and universities contributing to this research
  • Qualifying students can earn Honors credit in this course

Apply to do research

Deadline: March 15, 2024

If you're interested in participating in the phage research course, apply through the link below. Please also ask a teacher to fill out our easy recommendation form (no formal letter of recommendation needed). Applications with teacher recommendations will be given priority.

Submit an application

If you are a teacher recommending a student for this research, please click the button below to submit an honest assessment of the student's qualifications (formal recommendation letter not required):

Recommend a student


To be eligible to participate in the phage research program, you must be planning to enroll as a full-time student for the first time in the fall. You must also have a strong interest in science and demonstrate academic potential or ability. The focus of the course is biology, but you don’t have to be a biology major to participate.

About the program

In 2009, Calvin University was selected by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to be one of the first 24 schools nationwide to participate in a new science education initiative called the National Genomic Research Initiative. In this program, 20 first-year Calvin students make real scientific discoveries by doing research on bacterial viruses, called phages. During the two-semester introductory biology sequence led by biology professors Randall DeJong ( and John Wertz (, students learn techniques from across biology, including microbiology, molecular biology, genomics, ecology, biomedicine, global health/sustainability, and bioinformatics.

An exciting two-semester biology sequence

In the first semester, Calvin students isolate phages from various environments, likely finding phages that have never been seen before. The class spends the remainder of the first semester purifying and characterizing their phage, evaluating phage diversity in the environment, visualizing their phage via electron microscopy, and extracting phage DNA. Students even get to name their phage. Between semesters, the purified DNA genomes from selected phage are sequenced with Calvin’s new, next-generation DNA sequencer. In the second semester, students use bioinformatics and comparative genomics to analyze the phage, annotate the genome, and compare it to other phages. Students gain invaluable insight into its potential form and function. The data are then deposited in NCBI Genbank, an international DNA sequence database accessible to scientists across the globe.

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