I am interested in genes, chromosomes, and genomes: how they contribute to the traits of an organism, how they are transmitted during replication or cell division, and how they can change from generation to generation. My research makes use of viruses that infect bacteria, and my students and I use molecular biology and bioinformatics methods to make discoveries about the diversity of viruses in the world, how the virus genes work, and how the viruses may evolve.
I am interested in genes, chromosomes, and genomes: how they contribute to the traits of an organism, how they are transmitted during replication or cell division, and how they can change from generation to generation. To study genes and genomes, my research makes use of a group of newly-discovered viruses that infect bacteria. We will pursue two kinds of projects in the spring and summer:
1. The first project is in the structural and evolutionary analysis of phage genomes. A number of interesting phages have been discovered at Gonzaga that need to be analyzed and published so that the scientific community can make use of them. I am recruiting students to annotate and analyze phage genomes using bioinformatics methods, and to do quality control on annotations from BIOL 207L students. This project has the potential for lead authorship of a published manuscript. See http://genomea.asm.org/content/5/16/e01388-16.full. Later molecular biology bench work may be possible for students particularly interested in pursuing their findings.
2. If bacteriophages are ever going to be effectively used as anti-bacterial therapies, we will need to know how to control all aspects of a phage’s activities, especially how a phage expresses its genes during infection. This project is therefore aimed at the question, “How do viruses control the expression of their genes?” To answer this question, we are cloning pieces of DNA from O cluster phages and testing them to see if they have properties that promote transcription of mRNA. Characterization of these promoters should give insights into their function, their properties, and their evolution.