Science Education Alliance
The Science Education Alliance supports faculty members to engage thousands of beginning undergraduate students in authentic scientific discovery, primarily through Course-based Research Experiences (CREs; also known as Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences, or CUREs).
The Science Education Alliance (SEA) supports a community of faculty members and institutions who embed research as a fundamental component of early undergraduate science curricula. By doing so, SEA supports educators to develop their students as contributors of scientific discoveries and integrate their students in the research ecosystem as part of an engaging educational experience that promotes their persistence in the sciences.
Join Our Community
SEA currently is offering faculty members at all 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities the opportunity to join two national collaborative research projects, the Phage Hunters Advancing Genomic and Evolutionary Science (PHAGES) project and the Gene-function Exploration by a Network of Emerging Scientists (GENES) project. Each project is designed to be embedded in undergraduate science curricula as course-based research, and faculty members receive HHMI-sponsored training and year-round support to implement each project. When offered in sequence, the PHAGES and GENES projects can constitute up to two years of continuous research for undergraduate students.
The PHAGES Project
PHAGES is a year-long research project designed to be offered as two consecutive semester-long laboratory courses to beginning undergraduate students with little or no research experience. As course-based research, PHAGES often substitutes for traditional introductory biology laboratory courses. In the PHAGES project, students isolate and characterize novel bacteriophages from local environments, annotate the genomes, and submit the annotated sequences to the National Center for Biotechnology Information GenBank database. At the end of the academic year, student and faculty representatives from each participating institution attend the SEA Symposium, an annual scientific meeting at which students share and discuss their discoveries with their peers. In the 2018-2019 academic year, more than 5,500 primarily first-year and second-year undergraduate students from 126 different 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities took part in the PHAGES project. In the twelve years of the PHAGES project, more than 100 scientific papers have been published, many with undergraduate students as co-authors. Participation in the PHAGES research project is linked with higher student persistence in STEM (Jordan et al., mBio, 2014; Hanauer et. al., PNAS, 2017).
The GENES Project
GENES, launched in 2019, is a 1 – 2 semester-long research project designed as a sequel to the PHAGES course. In the GENES project, students generate expression libraries for phage genes, test for the ability of phage gene products to modulate bacterial host phenotypes, and screen phage gene products against the bacterial host proteome to identify putative host target(s). GENES research is suited to substitute for mid-level laboratory courses such as microbiology, molecular biology, and genetics. As with the PHAGES project, student and faculty representatives from the GENES project also attend and discuss their discoveries at the annual SEA Symposium.
Faculty members that join the SEA benefit from being part of a community that collaborates to advance both science and science education. Specifically, faculty members:
- are trained at HHMI-sponsored workshops in the techniques of microbiology, molecular biology, and genomics, as well as commonly employed pedagogical practices to deliver the PHAGES and GENES course-based research projects;
- receive year-round technical support for laboratory and bioinformatic protocols;
- co-author genome submissions to GenBank, and contribute towards science and education publications;
- attend HHMI-sponsored annual scientific meetings;
- participate in program-level evaluations, as well as contribute towards the development and evaluation of good teaching practices;
- have opportunities to collaborate with members of the SEA community and contribute towards additional scientific analyses and publications. For a complete list of publications, see the right rail.
Students acquire early, meaningful research experiences that make them feel a part of the scientific community. They are more productive, competitive, and prepared for advanced research opportunities and graduate school later in their undergraduate careers. The PHAGES and GENES project provides students with:
- opportunities to learn and apply critical thinking, through experimental design, data analysis and interpretation, and the applications of mathematics in problem solving;
- an introduction to scientific skills and techniques, including aseptic technique, microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, microscopy, as well as DNA sequencing, genome annotation, and comparative and functional genomics;
- opportunities for professional development, through effective presentation of research, networking with other SEA participants, and dissemination of research findings, including co-authorship on submission to genome databases and peer-reviewed publications;
[for a complete list of publications, see the right rail]
- an increased likelihood of persisting in the sciences - see An Inclusive Research-Education Community (iRec): Impact of the SEA-PHAGES program on research outcomes and student learning. 2017. PNAS
The PHAGES project is open to all 2-year and 4-year US colleges and universities.
The GENES project is open to all institutions already offering the PHAGES project.
For a list of colleges and universities that are members of the SEA, sortable by location and institution type, visit the SEA-PHAGES programmatic page.
We encourage all interested parties to contact us to learn about the projects in more detail, including how the projects could be structured at your institution. Please send questions to Vic Sivanathan, Danielle Heller, or Billy Biederman at [email protected].
The application materials, which includes a Program Annoucement and an Application Form, can be found in the Downloads box in the right rail.
The application timing is different for the PHAGES and GENES project
- SEA-PHAGES: Colleges and universities interested in joining the SEA and offering the PHAGES project can submit an application at any time, with a deadline of Oct 31 to begin offering the project the following academic year. HHMI recommends institutions begin the application process early, as early applicants benefit from additional opportunities to revise and resubmit their applications, and once accepted, to begin scheduling the project in the context of a course and securing additional intramural and/or extramural support for project consumables.
- SEA-GENES: At the begining of each application cycle, typically in June, a call for SEA-GENES applications will be sent to all institutions participating in the PHAGES project.
Admittance into the program is primarily based on the readiness and commitment of the applying institution to offer and sustain the project beyond the first year. Recommendations for structuring the project in the context of a course, based on the characteristics of successful implementations of the project, are provided as part of the application form, available in the Downloads box on the right rail.
A list of colleges and universities that are members of the SEA-PHAGES project can be viewed at the SEA-PHAGES programmatic page.
SEA in Images
In the first semester of the PHAGES project, students isolate phage from soil samples.
Image from phagesdb.org
In the second semester of the PHAGES project, students annotate and analyze the genomes through bioinformatics.
Image from Graham Hatfull et. al.
Participating SEA students and faculty gather to share and discuss scientific data generated during and beyond the PHAGES and GENES projects.
Image by Matt Staley
The Student Perspective
"When I take a moment to pause and think, about Phage Hunting and life in general, I find myself amazed. I’ve only been on this earth for eighteen short years, and yet I’m doing actual research." Allyson Roberts, Johns Hopkins University