Dr. Timothy Bullock Speaks on Immunity to Cancer

On Thursday, March 29 Dr. Timothy Bullock, Associate Professor of Pathology and Human Immune Therapy Center Investigator at the University of Virginia, spoke to Hampden-Sydney Biology students and faculty as a part of the Biology Department Seminar Series.  Dr. Bullock’s talk entitled “Invigorating T Cell Immunity to Cancer” focused on current challenges faced by researchers in eliciting T cell immunity to cancer as well as cutting-edge strategies for improving anti-tumor T cell immune responses.  Dr. Bullock is an expert in this area of research and has received funding and numerous awards from foundations that include the National Cancer Institute, the Cancer Research Institute, the Melanoma Research Alliance, the Dana Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health.  Dr. Bullock’s seminar was enthusiastic, informative, and engaging, and H-SC is lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from such a leader in the field of tumor immunology!

Dr. Bullock discussing the role of T cell dysfunction in tumor immune escape

Dr. Timothy Bullock discussing the role of T cell dysfunction in tumor immune escape


Dr. Timothy Bullock discussing novel strategies for improving immunity to cancer

Dr. Timothy Bullock discussing novel strategies for improving immunity to cancer

Phage Phest 2012!

Springtime brings to Virginia the annual Phage Phest, a celebration of undergraduate research work on bacteriophage, or viruses that infect bacteria.  H-SC sent 7 students from the Molecular Biology and Genomics courses who have worked on the bacteriophage project to the College of William and Mary to participate in Phage Phest, along with students and faculty from Virginia Commonwealth University, James Madison University, the University of Mary Washington, and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.  Also attending was Dr. Sarah Fortune of the Harvard School of Public Health, who delivered the keynote address on the new challenges of tuberculosis research.

The H-SC Phage Phest team

The H-SC Phage Phest team

Jonathan Park ’12 and Greg Robertson ’12 presented the class’ project from this semester, a characterization of bacteriophage Arturo, discovered at H-SC by Duncan Oliphant ’12.

The Phage Phest presentation

The Phage Phest presentation

The meeting allowed the H-SC students to interact with and discuss the research progress they have made this year with students at other schools working on similar projects.  The bacteriophage initiative, a part of H-SC association with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Education Alliance, will continue next year with the isolation of a fresh round of bacteriophages for analysis.  The current class will finish characterization of Arturo and place the information in GenBank, a repository of the United States National Library of Medicine for genetic sequence material.

The official H-SC Phage Phest 2012 T-shirt

Greetings from Pharmville: The official H-SC Phage Phest 2012 T-shirt

Developer of innovative bioinformatics computer program speaks at H-SC

As part of the continuing affiliation of Hampden-Sydney with the other 70 schools nationwide taking part in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Science Education Alliance, the department was pleased to welcome Dr. Steve Cresawn of James Madison University to H-SC to talk about his work in the rapidly developing field of bioinformatics. Advances in molecular biology like the Human Genome Project have created mountains and mountains of data to be explored……the problem lies in trying to find an efficient way to sift through all the data. Bioinformatics combines biology and computer science to develop ways to analyze large quantities of data and compare the entire genetic content, or genomes, of organisms to answer scientific questions involving evolution, medicine, and other subjects.

Dr. Cresawn presented his development of Phamerator, a tool designed for the comparison of whole viral genomes with the goal of understanding their evolution.

comparison of 6 viral genomes using Phamerator

comparison of 6 viral genomes using Phamerator (click the image for a closer look)

With Phamerator, students around the world are able to compare the viruses that they have isolated, including Arturo, isolated by Duncan Oliphant ’12 at Sagebrook Apartments at H-SC.  The program has made possible the understanding of the amazing level of viral diversity that exists in the natural environment and the evolutionary strategies used by viruses to adapt to changing environments.

H-SC helps to pave the way for new web resources to teach biology

Dr. Mike Wolyniak has joined a pair of national committees charged with developing ways that teachers from all varieties of educational institutions can share their resources and innovations for teaching biology and develop coursework tailored to their specific needs.  The first is called CourseSource and is a joint effort between the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the biological professional societies, including the American Society for Cell Biology and the Genetics Society of America, to develop a series of learning objectives that can be built into courses that rely less on lectures and more on discussion and activities.  The second initiative is called CUREnet and focuses on CURES, or Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences.  This site, when complete, will allow teachers with research-based classroom projects to network with others and build collaborations to make research experiences more accessible to undergraduates.  Both sites will come online later in the year and will rely on the experiences of institutions like Hampden-Sydney that have been actively experimenting with the ideas of incorporating research-like experiences into coursework.