October 13, 2021 Grantley Adams

WINSTED, CT – October 13, 2021 – Northwestern Connecticut Community College (NCCC) Biology Studies student, Renee Dunbar, recently completed the annotation of the Hortense Bacteriophage as part of Northwestern’s NSF (National Science Foundation) funded Undergraduate Research grant supplement project. Renee worked with fellow NCCC student, Meegan Rossier, and Torrington High School students Kelly Ruiz Borja, Jennifer Redrovan, and Marbelyn Benavides on the project, and they are all listed as co-authors on the publication. The annotation was submitted to and accepted for publication in GenBank, the National Institute of Health’s Genetic Sequence Database where it is now accessible to researchers around the world. This is Renee’s second publication in GenBank, her first was last year as the second author on the annotation of the GemG bacteriophage, a project led by Amanda Gregg, NCCC ‘20.  Renee is a passionate student researcher who credits the college and the grant project with helping her clarify her academic goals: “Being part of the grant projects have opened a lot of doors for my future, refined my career goals and inspired me to keep working towards them. The projects have allowed me to gain real experience in the bioinformatics and microbiology fields and have given me opportunities to work as a group with other students towards a common goal and finally, to network with professionals in the field.”

As lead student researcher, Renee organized the project and taught the other students how to use the bioinformatics software. She also organized as a summer project to further analyze the genome’s promotor regions and conserved repeats.  Torrington High School students Logan Wilson, Fashal Alam, and Louise Leonard worked on the summer project along with NCCC student Saradina Redman. Dunbar and Redman have been selected as Student Awardees at the upcoming National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technology Education Conference. They will be presenting their work at the virtual conference.

The Hortense bacteriophage was discovered in Pennsylvania by Marina Duka in 2017 and the sequence was shared with NCCC through the Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEAPHAGES) program sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical institute (HHMI). Biology Professor Sharon Gusky worked with the students, oversees the SEAPHAGES projects at NCCC, and is the Principal Investigator on the NSF funded Advanced Technology Education Grant project, Engaging Students from Camps and Classrooms to College and Technical Careers (#1801062). This project provides high school and college students with the opportunity to learn about technical careers through authentic research experiences. Students interested in participating in student research or pursing a science degree at Northwestern Connecticut Community College, should contact Professor Gusky at sgusky@nwcc.edu.

(This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1801062. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation).