SHU students travel to present phages research

Image from seaphages.org.

Seton Hill University’s Natalie Frydryck, a sophomore double major in forensics and biology, and Jordan McCready, a medical technology major, will be travelling down to the Janelia Research Campus located in Ashburn, Va. June 9-11 to present a poster and talk about the work of the BL 100 Foundations of Scientific Inquiry courses taught at SHU this year.

According to Kristen Butela, a biology professor at SHU, Frydryck and McCready will be presenting the work done at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s SEA-PHAGES Undergraduate Research Symposium alongside over 80 colleges and universities. SEA-PHAGES is a yearly conference in its ninth year that allows students to explain their work done throughout the semester.

“As the trip approaches, I feel a variety of emotions, from being excited to attend my first research symposium to being nervous because this will be my first research symposium,” said McCready.

“When I found out I was going I was very excited. I could not believe I was able to go on this awesome opportunity,” Frydryck said.

According to McCready, science and helping others has been his life’s focus since he was young. His drive and help from others “that deserve an endless amount of credit and love” are the reasons why he’s able to be in the position he’s in today.

“All students who took the course were invited to apply to attend the conference,” Butela said. “Interested students wrote a short essay on how attending the meeting would help their career and professional goals, the essays were coded to ensure confidentiality and then the essays were ranked by the SHU biology faculty.”

“One thing we had to do was find a phage,” Frydryck said. “The phages that are found at Seton Hill are even added to a database.”

“At the beginning of the phage research, I honestly was curious to see what the class Foundations of Scientific Inquiry had in store. The first assignment was to collect a couple soil samples, so I decided to dig up some dirt near where I enjoyed shooting some basketball in my free time,” McCready said. “After completing numerous protocols over the course of that semester, that dirt sample helped lead me into the position that I am in today.”

According to Frydryck, phages are viruses that infect bacteria and since their discovery, they have “been used in medicine to get rid of bacterial infections and all kinds of different bacterial issues.” This process of finding phages has been opened up to undergrad students to help the research process and allow for hands-on experience.

According to McCready, the SEA-PHAGES program allows access to authentic and valuable discovery-based undergraduate research and develops the necessary skills needed to get to where he wants to be as a research scientist. These skills consist of critical thinking skills, data analysis and interpretation, design of experiments, reading and analyzing primary literature articles (research and review), mathematical calculations in problem solving, aseptic technique, microbiology, molecular biology, DNA sequencing, genome annotation and comparative and functional genomics.

“In addition to gaining advancements in the field of phage discovery, the SEA-PHAGES program has continued to stimulate my interest in science, has enhanced my persistence in the S.T.E.M. fields and has helped me identify how I gained and continue to gain the knowledge of learning, motivation, attitude and selfless ambition in my future career,” McCready said.

Frydryck said that she loves the research and wants to make a career out of it by continuing performing research in genetics.

“Having an inside look at this facility gives me a great opportunity to see where I may potentially end up later in life and talk to numerous scientists that do hands-on, challenging and high priority research,” said McCready. “Having the opportunity to attend the annual SEA-PHAGES Symposium at the Janelia Research Campus would be a personally rewarding experience.”

For more information, check out seaphages.org.

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