The official website of the HHMI Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science program.

The SEA-PHAGES Program

SEA-PHAGES (Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science) is a two-semester, discovery-based undergraduate research course that begins with simple digging in the soil to find new viruses, but progresses through a variety of microbiology techniques and eventually to complex genome annotation and bioinformatic analyses.

The program aims to increase undergraduate interest and retention in the biological sciences through immediate immersion in authentic, valuable, yet accessible research. By finding and naming their own bacteriophages, students develop a sense of project ownership and have a ready-made personal research project at a fraction of the cost of traditional apprentice-based research programs. Some of the positive effects of the SEA-PHAGES program have been reported here.

SEA-PHAGES is jointly administered by Graham Hatfull's group at the University of Pittsburgh and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Science Education division.


Abstract Submission for 2017 Symposium

Dear SEA Faculty Members,

We are excited that the 2017 SEA Symposium is rapidly approaching. Below is information regarding abstract submission for the SEA Symposium (Cohort 10 excluded).

Who Should Submit an Abstract?

  • Each school with student participant(s) for the 2017 SEA Symposium is expected to submit one scientific abstract about bacteriophage work accomplished by students this year. This abstract should be presented during the poster session by the students attending the symposium. One poster space will be set aside for each participating school.
  • Each school may also submit a second abstract, to be presented by the attending faculty. Due to space restriction, a limited number of these posters will be selected for presentation at the poster session.
  • As you submit each abstract, please indicate if you would like your abstract to be considered for a talk. Each of these abstracts will be reviewed and considered for a 12-minute talk. Note that abstracts selected to for a talk will also be expected to be presented at the poster session.
  • Please also note that you will need to upload a photo (headshot) for each of the poster presenters when submitting an abstract.

Abstract Guidelines

  • Abstract titles can be up to 200 characters long.
  • Abstract body text can be up to 3,000 characters long.

Poster Guidelines

  • Note that even if your abstract is selected for a talk, you will also present a poster.
  • The final poster dimensions must fit into an area no larger than 4’ x 4’.
  • The poster heading should include a title, names of authors, and the name of your institution.

How to Submit an Abstract

To submit an abstract for the meeting, you must be a verified SEA-PHAGES faculty member, and you must log in to After doing so, you can use the link in this timeline to submit an abstract. Alternatively, go to your institution's page and follow the link found there: .

When to Submit an Abstract

The abstract is due by Friday, May 5, 2017.

Keep in touch with the most up-to-date information on the upcoming Symposium on the meeting page.

Email us at if you have any questions.


Annotation Forum Reorganization

An Inherent Problem with Annotation

With the constant influx of new software tools, new genomes, and new publications, the way we annotate genomes is always changing. We always know a bit more than we did last year, and often a lot more than we did 5 years ago.

This leads to an inherent problem, however, in that we only officially train SEA-PHAGES faculty once, and obviously Cohorts 1-8 were trained more than one year ago. In addition, the genome you worked on at the Bioinformatics Workshop may be nothing like the genome you're currently annotating, and you'll inevitably come across new and puzzling regions.

Before? No...After? No...During!

The question is, how can we share what we've learned with the whole SEA in a manner that helps you do the most up-to-date annotations possible? We can put out "What's New?" documents before you begin annotating, which we do, but these often only cover broad strokes rather than details. Or we can provide feedback after you've submitted your final annotation, which we also do, but these details can be easily forgotten over the summer before you tuck into your next genome, and may not apply if you have a different cluster phage anyway.

Therefore, to our mind, the best time to get feedback is while you're actively annotating your genomes. And while we love answering questions about the cool and interesting things you're finding, we'd like that answer to be shared with everyone who might be coming across something similar so we don't end up have to answer it many times over!

Which obviously brings us to the Annotation Forum, where we can give specific, real-time feedback in a manner that's visible to others who might have similar questions. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to use the forum for questions you've come across while annotating.

Reorganization of the Forum

Which brings me to the point: I've slightly rearranged the Annotation Forum and renamed/clarified/broken up some of the existing threads to try to make everything more transparent and useful. Within the main annotation forum, there are now specific sub-forums for questions about calling start sites, calling functions, getting the notes right, and more. Please go ahead and ask questions in any of these. Here are a few quick pointers...

  • Post specific titles to your questions, like "Large gap in a Cluster F1 phage" or "Write NKF or leave blank in minimal notes?" This will help others find answers more than titles like "Question about two genes".
  • On each thread, try to keep the discussion specific to that topic. So if someone asks a question about the difference between a hydrolase and an esterase, don't use that same thread to ask about the HHPred cutoff for a hydrolase. Instead, create a new topic.
  • The Annotation Forums are public, which means students can use them as well. And their PhagesDB logins will also work on

Happy annotating!

The GO Annotation Competition is upon us!

If you are annotating phage genomes in Spring, you might be interested in an exciting inter-campus Gene Ontology (GO) annotation competition devoted to phage genomes and hosted by Texas A&M University. Last year, 5 SEA-PHAGES campuses joined the competition.

GO annotations are formal statements about the function/role/location of a gene product (e.g. protein X has glucosidase activity or protein Y is part of the phage tail baseplate). As part of the competition, students have to find literature sources providing experimental evidence of a given function/role/location for a phage gene product and enter the annotation using the wiki-based interface. These annotations can be challenged and corrected by students from other campuses and instructors, and students must revise them to earn full credit. Once completed, annotations are submitted to the GO repository for everybody to see and use.

Performing GO annotations in a competitive setting is a great way to have students read, parse and distill a scientific manuscript into the elementary units of knowledge it contributes. If you are interested in participating, please contact Steve Caruso ( or Ivan Erill ( of UMBC for more information. They have abundant training material to share with you.

Current Events

Phage Discovery Workshop 10A

June 24, 2017 to June 30, 2017

Upcoming Events

Phage Discovery Workshop 10B

July 8, 2017 to July 14, 2017

Prepare & Test Reagents for Phage Discovery

July 17, 2017 to August 31, 2017

Receive Shipment of Biologicals from Program

July 17, 2017 to August 31, 2017

Recent Events

2017 Genome Announcement Workshop

June 11, 2017 to June 13, 2017

9th Annual SEA-PHAGES Symposium

June 9, 2017 to June 11, 2017

Forum Activity

leblancstraj posted in New Features in PECAAN

leblancstraj posted in Phage can not be added

Claire Rinehart posted in New Features in PECAAN