By Melanie Brown
I’ve never done lab research before. When I signed up for this class I didn’t know what to expect. Actually, the first time I saw this class listed on the JHU ISIS course listings for the fall semester, I disregarded it. I figured it wasn’t something within my reach. But as I was painstakingly crafting the perfect freshman year fall semester, I found “Project Lab: Phage Hunting” repeatedly grabbing my attention. It even fit with the rest of my schedule! So I decided to try and register for this class, and I got in.
Before classes even started I had my first phage hunting assignment: collect a soil sample. I got mine from right outside my dorm and on the first try (through a method called direct plating) I found signs of phages: plaques! Despite my confusion over sterile technique, the procedure, etc., I managed to actually produce results.
Sadly, after streaking these plaques onto new plates, I didn’t get any more good plaques. After multiple attempts to streak these plaques I gave up and used the plaques I got from my enriched sample from the JHU garden. I am currently still working on getting multiple generations of plaques from streaking. Hopefully by the end of this week I can get past this stage and progress in my hunt to isolate a pure phage.
Despite my initial reservations about this class, I am so glad I’m taking it. I have learned so much about research lab procedures, tools, and materials in this first month. In the Phage Hunting lab I feel like a research pro! This class is relaxing, oddly enough. I love the experience I’m getting from being a Phage Hunter and I hope I can keep doing it this next semester!