Loyola University Chicago

Undergraduate Research

Center for Engaged Learning, Teaching, and Scholarship (CELTS)

Molecular & Computational Biology Summer Research Fellows, Summer 2013


Kema Malki

Year: Sophomore

Major: Biology

Christopher Banaszak

Year: Junior

Major: Physics


Mentor: Putonti, Catherine

Department: Biology

Project Title:How do phage drive bacterial diversity in Lake Michigan near-shore waters?

Project Abstract: With the advent of next-generation sequencing (NGS) instrumentation, the throughput and cost-effectiveness of studying entire complex environmental communities is now feasible. A critical member of many ecological niches, the viral species which infect bacteria (phage) play an important role in maintaining the bacterial diversity within the community as well as nutrient cycling. Despite advances in sequencing technology, identifying and/or classifying the viruses present in a particular habitat is a significant challenge as relatively little genomic data is available for this the most abundant species on earth. This project focuses on the development and application of new tools for the synthesis of next-generation viral metagenomic sequence data. Classifying novel species will be achieved by fusing existing and new tools, integrating our knowledge of viral biosynthetic compatibility with their host. This will be conducted in concert with a long-term study of the viral diversity present within Loyola University Chicago’s own backyard - the near-shore waters of Lake Michigan. Utilizing novel computational methods, this research will ascertain if and how phage are shaping the bacterial diversity and density in this environment. The tools developed and data generated will benefit future studies of environmental viriomes.