The recipient of the 2013 Carski Foundation Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award is Graham Hatfull, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Carski Award is given in recognition of an educator for exemplary teaching of microbiology to undergraduate students and encouraging them to pursue further achievement. Hatfull personifies the spirit of this award.
Hatfull received his undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from Westfield College, University of London in 1978, and his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Edinburgh University in 1981. His postdoctoral work was completed at Yale University with Dr. Nigel Grindley, and at the Medical Research Council at Cambridge University, with Drs. Fred Sanger and Bart Barrell. Hatfull has been at the University of Pittsburgh since 1988 and served as Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences from 2003 to 2011. According to his nominator Sam Donovan, University of Pittsburgh, during Hatfull’s “eight-year tenure as the chair of the Department of Biological Sciences Graham spearheaded a department-wide effort to dramatically increase undergraduates’ participation in course-based, and laboratory research. He leads by example, including many undergraduates in his research team, teaching courses where students pursue their own projects, and regularly publishing with undergraduate co-authors.”
As one of the inaugural Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Professors in 2002, Hatfull developed the Phage Hunters Integrating Research and Education (PHIRE) program as a platform for introducing novice students to authentic scientific research. In 2007, this served as the basis for development of the HHMI Science Education Alliance Phage Hunters Advancing Genome Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES), which is used to teach undergraduate students how to isolate, characterize, and annotate the genomes of bacteriophages. It allows undergraduates to conduct original research as part of a national research community. This transformative program is being used as a model by many other institutions and has made significant impact on the students and research being conducted. Karen Klyczek, University of Wisconsin—River Falls, says that “as a result of this program we have seen higher student retention, students seeking additional research experiences, and other benefits of engaging students in research early in their careers.”
Currently, Hatfull’s research focuses on the molecular genetics of the mycobacteria and their bacteriophages. These studies take advantage of the intimacy of phage-host interactions to gain insights into the genetics and physiology of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of human TB. Integrated research-education programs such as the PHIRE and SEA-PHAGES programs have generated a large collection of completely sequenced mycobacteriophage genomes that provide insights into viral diversity and evolution, and represent a rich toolbox of new approaches to understanding M. tuberculosis. Development of vector systems, selectable markers, recombineering approaches, expression tools, and insights into mycobacterial biofilms reflect some of the useful applications of this genomic resource.
In addition to being a wonderful teacher, Hatfull has published more than 120 peer-reviewed research articles, 28 book chapters or reviews, and two books. He has received funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1989, mentored 18 Ph.D. students, over 100 undergraduate student researchers, and 16 postdoctoral associates. He has received the University of Pittsburgh Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award at both the junior and senior level, the University of Pittsburgh Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, and holds the Eberly Family Professorship in Biotechnology. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a teaching fellow of the National Academy of Science. He has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor since 2002.