The Community Phages team

  • Tom Bernhardt

    Professor - Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology

    I have had a long interest in phages dating back to my graduate studies at Texas A&M University. There, I investigated the mechanisms by which phages lyse (blowup) their bacterial hosts to release progeny viruses so that they can go on to infect new hosts. Over the years, my lab has mainly focused on studies of bacterial cell biology and cell surface biogenesis. However, in recent years we have begun studying phages of corynebacteria and using them to help us understand how this class of bacteria grows. I am excited to work with you on the identification and characterization of new corynephages from the environment. There is great potential in this work to develop new tools for our studies and to discover new biological mechanisms.

  • Michael Baym

    Assistant Professor - Department of Biomedical Informatics

    I’m a new convert to the world of phages. I came to them from a longstanding interest in bacterial evolution, particularly in the evolution of antibiotic resistance. In no small part thanks to Dr. Owen I’ve come to the idea that phages play a critical role in the evolution of antibiotic resistance, and in horizontal gene transfer more broadly. I am excited for you to discover phages that affect the horizontal transfer of genes between bacteria, and to potentially use those phages and the biology we learn from them to better address antibiotic resistance.

  • Philip Kranzusch

    Associate Professor - Department of Microbiology

    I am interested in how cells sense and defend against viral infection. My lab uses biochemistry to study how human cells recognize viruses and how bacteria detect replication of phages. We have been surprised to learn from our research that these processes are closely related, and human cells and bacteria use similar mechanisms to resist virus replication. I am excited to work with you to identify new phages and discover how bacteria and phages can teach us more about human immunity.

  • James Michael Spencer

    Laboratory Manager - Bernhardt Lab

    As a former bench scientist and current lab manager, it’s my goal to create and maintain an environment that makes your experience in the lab as seamless and productive as possible. I find fulfillment in ensuring that we have everything we need to succeed and do great science at the bench and beyond. I am excited to see the work you’ll be doing during this research program.

  • Sam Hobbs

    Postdoctoral Fellow - Kranzusch Lab

    Bacterial cells and the viruses that infect them are in constant conflict, and as a result, both have evolved many ways of manipulating each other. I am interested in the molecular basis of how viruses evade host immune defenses. Currently, I work on understanding the mechanisms by which bacterial cells sense phage infection and the evolutionary adaptations that have allowed phages to evade this detection system. For my graduate work I studied the immune response to vaccinia virus infection. Away from the lab I enjoy the outdoors through skiing, climbing, hiking, and biking.

  • Alex Johnson

    Postdoctoral Fellow - Kranzusch Lab

    Phages have been at war with bacteria for billions of years and this conflict has led to incredible innovations in molecular biology. I am particularly excited about studying phage and bacteria to discover their molecular weapons and shields. My hope is that phage will teach us new principles of life and also yield new tools for synthetic biology. In my own research, I am passionate about visualizing large biological machines that cannot be seen by the naked eye using the techniques of electron microscopy. I am excited to share my experience and passion for bacteriophage and electron microscopy with students in this program.

  • Indra González Ojeda

    Graduate Student - Baym Lab

    I am a graduate student focused on researching the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. What I know about the world of phages I have gained through osmosis from interactions with Natalia and Siân, two passionate phage advocates in the Baym lab. I am originally from Puerto Rico, a small and beautiful island in the Caribbean. Now in Boston, the cold weather motivates me to stay in the lab, killing bacteria in the name of science. Outside of the lab, I like to listen to reggaeton and spend time with my very chaotic cat named Psi. I am excited to meet you all, learn a bit more about phages and support you through your scientific journey this summer!

  • Baylee Russell

    Graduate Student - Jost Lab

    I am interested in understanding how phages impact microbial communities, specifically in the amazingly complex microbial community within our own gut. My research focuses on how molecules produced by bacteria to fight off phage infection are inadvertently recognized by the human immune system. Studying phages was one of my earliest exposures to research, and I can’t wait to share that experience with other new researchers.

  • Brendan O'Hara

    Postdoctoral Fellow - Dove Lab

  • Kemardo Henry

    Postdoctoral Fellow - Hochschild Lab

    I grew up in Jamaica and moved to the United States following high school. After completing an associates degree at Baltimore City Community College, I transferred to Syracuse University where I majored in Biochemistry and minored in Women’s and Gender Studies. The microbial world always fascinated me, and to broaden my knowledge, I pursued a PhD in microbiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Under the supervision of Rick Gourse and Wilma Ross, I found that a majority of Rhodobacter sphaeroides promoters lack the critical thymine found at the last position of the -10 element. I determined that these promoters require the transcription factor CarD in addition to RNA polymerase for transcription. I joined the Hochschild lab in January 2021 to broaden my understanding of bacterial prions. I’m utilizing in vitro and genetic approaches to study bacterial prion formation. When not in lab, I enjoy spending time exploring new places and with my cat, Beaker.

Diversity and Equity Mission

Community Phages is committed to providing an engaging and immersive research experience. We recognize that there have been systemic injustices in the historical distribution of scientific research opportunities and support. Thus, we strive to facilitate an equitable and inclusive environment in which all students may feel supported and provided with opportunities to flourish.


The Community Phages program was inspired by the HHMI SEA-PHAGES program. Protocols and materials have been adapted or reproduced with permission. We are grateful to Viknesh Sivanathan from HHMI for assistance in the conception and funding of this program.

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