Bacteriophage Discovery and Molecular Characterization in a High School Biotechnology Program (Lead PI: S. Monroe Duboise)

Bacteriophage Discovery and Molecular Characterization in a High School Biotechnology Program
Students Reached:37 high school students
Lead Researcher:  Dr. S. Monroe Duboise, the University of Southern Maine
Lead Teacher:Mr. David Nordstrom, Foster Technology Center and Mount Blue High School

Through this program, seven students in eleventh and twelfth grade at the Foster Technology Center learned how to isolate and characterize bacteriophage from local water and soil sources. Led by Dr. S. Monroe Duboise, of the University of Southern Maine, and Mr. David Nordstrom, of Foster Technology Center and Mount Blue High School, these seven students purified clonal isolates of bacteriophage, produced large volumes of phage lysate to isolate phage DNA, determined which restriction enzymes to use to ligate phage DNA into plasmids, and transformed these plasmid containing isolated phage DNA into bacteria. Phage DNA was subsequently sequenced and characterized, transmission electron micrographs (TEM) of the isolated phages obtained, and the genomic analyses of these phages was presented at a symposium at the University of Southern Maine.

Dr. Duboise assisted students with the technical aspects of each laboratory technique and coordinated phage DNA isolation and TEM. Mr. Nordstrom taught students the necessary background information for each molecular biology technique required, managed the experiments that could be performed at Foster Technical Center, and taught students how to maintain their laboratory notebooks. He also assisted in the student presentation at the University of Southern Maine symposium.

The seven Foster Technical Center students led two biotechnology activities at Mount Blue High School, where they taught 22 students how to transform bacteria and taught eight how to extract DNA. Three of the biotechnology students are from low-income households, and six out of seven are planning to pursue careers in STEM. Student motivation remained high throughout the year, and the quality of lab notebook entries increased over time. These students presented their findings at a symposium at the University of Southern Maine and the quality of their presentation equaled that of undergraduate posters.

ASBMB HOPES funding was used to purchase the consumable materials and tools necessary for bacteriophage growth and propogation, for bacterial culture, bacterial transformation, DNA purification, and phage genomic library preparation. These tools have been and will continue to be used in future iterations of this program.

Students performing experiments to study bacteriophage collected from local water and soil sources