Pennington School students in an honors research course discovered two previously unknown viruses.
Four students worked together in Dr. David Hauser’s Advanced Research in Molecular Biology to isolate and purify the viruses from local soil samples.
Pennington seniors Theodore Darenkov and Anna Gregg of Princeton, and juniors Tess McGuinness of West Trenton and Rodrigo Gonzalez-Gomez of Madrid, Spain studied the DNA for four months. They named the viruses Taurus, Latin for “bull,” and Gadost, Russian for “filth.”
The course is part of Pennington School’s PHIRE program, which allows undergraduates and high school students to participate in authentic scientific research. Dr. Graham Hatfull of the University of Pittsburgh started this program in 2002.
The DNA for the new viruses has been extracted by the scientists at the University of Pittsburgh. The next step is to have the DNA sequenced and analyzed by the students in the coming term.
Once the DNA sequences are received, students in Hauser’s class plan to use computer programs and their knowledge of viral genetics to “annotate” the viral genomes, figuring out where each gene starts and ends.
The annotated sequence will then be submitted to an international database, called the GenBank, for use by scientists all over the world.
Starting in 2014, Huaser plans to expand the research course to include a similar virus program developed by scientists at Rutgers University. He is also working on a tropical biology field course, which would include a trip to the cloud forest of Peru.
The Pennington School, founded in 1838, is an independent coeducational school for students in grades six through 12, in both day and boarding programs.
More information is online at pennington.org.