John Dennehy

Director of Undergraduate Research

lab photos (18)Dr. John J. Dennehy is an Associate Professor of Biology at Queens College. He maintains an active research lab focused on three main areas of interest: 1) population biology of virus host shifts; 2) single cell studies of gene expression; and 3) urban metagenomics. He received a National Science Foundation Early Career Award in 2012.

Prior to joining the Queens College community in 2007, Dr. Dennehy was a postdoctoral associate at the University of Albany and an National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University. He obtained his PhD from Clark University in Massachusetts in 2003.

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Dr. Dennehy has had an interest in facilitating undergraduate research dating back to his graduate student days at Clark University. Since joining Queens College, he has welcomed a total of 37 undergraduate students into his lab group. In addition, he has worked to integrate research into the curriculum at Queens College. Dr. Dennehy and Queens College was accepted into the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Alliance in 2009. Member schools of the Science Education Alliance developed a two-semester course in bacterial virus genomics, called Phage Hunters. In the course freshmen undergraduates participated in an authentic research experience with meaningful results. During the fall semester, students isolated novel bacteriophages (viruses of bacteria) from local soil, characterized them, and extracted their DNA. During winter break, the genomes were fully sequenced using advanced sequencing technology. In the spring, students finished, annotated and phylogenetically analyzed resulting genomes. Since 2008, more than 100 colleges have participated, hundreds of faculty have been trained, thousands students have engaged in meaningful research, 5,953 phages have been isolated, and 843 genomes have been fully sequenced.Through participation in the Science Education Alliance, Dr. Dennehy’s students were included as coauthors on national conference presentations and peer-reviewed articles.

More recently, Dr. Dennehy has introduced a module called Authentic Research Experience in Microbiology (AREM) to his General Microbiology course. In this module, students isolated and partially sequenced bacterial DNA from common personal items such as phones, pens, money, shoes, and eyeglasses. Next generation metagenomic sequencing revealed considerable bacterial diversity on these common items which we carry with us every day.

Dr. Dennehy was appointed Queens College’s Founding Director of Undergraduate Research in 2014.




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