Coming from a high school where getting A’s and quickly, efficiently working through labs was the norm for me, this class definitely was a little bit of a reality check. When assignments were dependent on intellect and consistency, hard work and studying was usually gifted with good grades. When labs required precise measurements, steady hands, and a calm demeanor, I was usually rewarded with accurate results. However, in great contrast, I’m infamous at my school for having the worst luck in everything else, what we call “RNG,” or random number generator. When I needed a 4, I would get a 67. I even recall my dad telling me why he’s not fond of investing in the stock market, because “his father’s genes don’t carry luck.”
This class requires some of that luck that I seem to lack, at least at the start. Come day one, I got my dirt sample, and was ready to do the direct isolation procedure, expecting to see plaques the next day in lab. When I did come in, I was already pretty sure that there was nothing there. However, I’m a very stubborn person, so I guess I called something that was not a plaque, a plaque, and tried to streak it. Not only did those plates get contaminated to add insult to injury, but I happened to basically incise the top agar when I was streaking. Like most, I also didn’t really believe that like a billion phages exist in each plaque, and that when you touched them with the streaking stick, half of them latch onto it, and that when you make a streak, you’re laying out almost all of those half billion phages onto the plate.
I happened to try four different dirt samples, looking for phages, before I finally adopted some of Sabrina’s plates. Some students had plaques on day one, and I felt so utterly left behind. However, that’s one of the strong points about the class. You get to work at your own pace, and don’t get graded down for things that aren’t really your fault. And technically, I wasn’t really behind at all. There are always going to be chunks of the class at the same place that you are, so you aren’t alone in that sense either. Phage hunting in my opinion, is one of the best classes that a freshman can take. It’s so welcoming in both procedure and people, and it’s a great way to learn about more advanced lab procedures that you haven’t learned in high school.
Now, that I have Sabrina’s adopted plates, I’ve been streaking for about four days now, and I’m just trying to perfect my streaking technique so that I can have three generations of a single type of phage in my plates. Coming in at the beginning of class and seeing that there are actually plaques on my plates never gets old. It’s like Christmas every Monday and Wednesday, and I think that by the end of the semester, I’ll be able to look back and say that I was really satisfied with what I was able to accomplish in this class.