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The HMS 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.


  • Amelia McKitterick

    Postdoctoral Fellow - Bernhardt Lab

    I am interested in understanding how phages interact with their host bacteria to gain control during infection, and how this knowledge can teach us about the special ways different bacteria grow and divide. I think through studying phages, we can ask big picture questions about bacterial and pathogen evolution as well as microbial community dynamics that can teach us more about the larger world around us. I am also passionate about sharing my love of research with others and can’t wait to spread the joy of lab work to a new set of researchers.


  • Siân Owen

    Postdoctoral Fellow - Baym Lab

    I believe that phages are the secret puppet masters of the bacterial world, shaping the lives of bacteria in inconceivably broad-ranging ways. My research focuses on how phages can rapidly alter bacterial biology and drive their evolution in interesting directions. I am passionate about communicating the joys of phage research, and make it my personal mission to “infect” as many people as possible.


  • Natalia Quinones-Olvera

    Graduate Student - Baym Lab

    I study mobile genetic elements in bacteria, with a combination of bioinformatics and wet lab methods. I’m particularly interested in the conflicts between conjugative plasmids and bacteriophages, and in isolating interesting phages that help us understand these conflicts. Coding is an essential part of my research, but it is also one of my hobbies! Computers are incredibly powerful and flexible, and I love that you can do anything with them, from studying new phages, to creating art.


  • Kate Hummels

    Postdoctoral Fellow - Bernhardt Lab

    I am fascinated by the diversity and complexity of the microbial world. I find the ability of these “simple” microorganisms to reliably grow and even thrive in a variety of environments both remarkable and inspiring. My current research is focused on understanding how bacteria coordinate the expansion of their multi-layered cell envelope, allowing for consistent growth and division. When I’m not working at the bench, you might find me exploring the outdoors, solving a jigsaw puzzle, or playing with clay.


  • Thomas McCabe Bartlett

    Postdoctoral Fellow - Bernhardt & Rudner Labs

    Much like a wave passes through water or a flame burns a candle wick, life is better understood as a phenomenon passing through matter than as a collection of animated objects. The dynamic processes that allow life, growth, and procreation are generally deadly if they are misregulated (i.e., when they occur in the wrong time or place). My goal is to understand how the most basic and fundamental processes of life - cell growth, cell division, cell separation, and related processes - spontaneously organize to allow life to flourish. Also, I began my scientific career in a community college setting, and helping expose community college students to research experience is an important part of my personal mission as an academic scientist.


Diversity and Equity Mission

HMS 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.


Acknowledgments

The HMS 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.