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Newfound Bacteriophage Named After Hopey

Ashley Yenick ’14, Copy Editor

On March 3, a group of Merrimack students found a new bacteriophage in a muddy tire track sample found on campus: Hopey, named after, you guessed it, Merrimack’s very own President Christopher Hopey.

Professor Janine LeBlanc led the team of students from her HMMI sea phages who discovered the bacteriophage. “A bacteriophage is a virus that infects bacteria. The word ‘phage’ in greek means ‘to eat,’” she said.

The students who participated in the were Anthony Preston, Allison Langone (Honor), Gwendolyn Vasquez, Miranda Gagnon (Honors), Michael DiVito, Joshua Gallant, Daniel Gomez, Julie Joyce, Emilee MacLean, and  Nicholas Flaherty (TA).

The bacteriophage was sent to the Pittsburgh Bacteriophage Institute for sequencing. Last year, LeBlanc applied to be a member of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as a part of the Science Education Alliance (SEA). This course is sponsored by Howard Hughes Medical Institute and held in the Center for Biotechnology and Biomedical Sciences.

As a part of the HHMI SEA Phages course, students collect samples of soil in different areas around Merrimack’s campus. Since finding the Hopey bacteriophage, students in the course found more phages that they’ve been researching. LeBlanc said the Hopey Phage is sequenced with 75,586 base pairs of DNA.

LeBlanc said that this type of research is not only done at Merrimack but across the United States at other colleges and universities as well. In June, the Merrimack students that discovered Hopey will be presenting their findings with other students from other universities and colleges at the Janelia Farms Research Campus in Ashburn, Va.

Bacteriophage Press Release: http://www.merrimack.edu/live/news/1538-a-phage-named-hopey


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