Wilkes University student Kayla Hiryak of Gilbertsville receives First Place for ‘Phage Hunting' research poster at Science Education Alliance Conference

Wilkes University student Kayla Hiryak of Gilbertsville, Pa., received first place for a research poster that she presented at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Alliance Conference.

The conference was held at the institute’s research center at Janelia Farm, Va.

Hiryak, the daughter of Kathleen and James Hiryak, presented the results of research conducted in a “Phage Hunting” class taught by Christian Laing, assistant professor of mathematics, computer science and biology.

The class, one of the First-Year Foundations courses that all freshmen must complete, engaged students in hands-on scientific research to discover previously unknown viruses known as bacteriophages, or phages for short. In the course, Wilkes students isolated seven new phages and sequenced and annotated three genomes.

As a national partner of the Science Education Alliance, Wilkes challenges its students as early as possible in their academic careers to engage in scientific discovery. Laing’s “Phage Hunting” class is part of the Science Education Alliance Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science project, which offers students an opportunity to discover new viruses, contribute to the field of genomics, and learn to think like scientists.

Information submitted by Wilkes University.