And the hunt is on!

By Daniel Woods

We are officially two weeks into the brand new school year, and what an exciting two weeks it has been for the phage hunting crew.  I know I’ve personally had fun so far for the 3 times we’ve been in the lab.  But since we’ve only done so much in the lab on a technical premise, I would like to share how the experience has been for me on an observational level.

First, I’d like to start off by saying how people react when I told them I was doing this lab.  I’ve got friends going to college back in Florida, some freshmen this year and some sophomore, and each one of them said that this class sounded awesome… and they were right! I mean, it sounds awesome! Just think, how does saying “Phage Hunting” sound to the normal person? I think it would sound pretty legit. And even to people who know what phages are, the idea of the class is amazing, how we can go out and capture our own phage and possibly get it published.  So, just the sound of the lab is pretty sweet!  When I met my roommates, they reacted the same way, telling me how cool it sounded, and one of them went with me to pick up the sample of soil that was needed for our tests.  It was pretty funny, how we were taking this long journey to get close to the river, and how it reminded us of video games, and how we were “phage hunting” and just how cool we were. It was great.

The fun really started when I actually brought the sample into the lab.  It felt like this was my own research and it is going to be my duty to follow through and successfully complete the research and present my findings… It made me feel like a true scientist!  Well the first day we just went over proper procedures and testing equipment and that neat stuff, making sure we all knew how to work everything.  Friday is when we actually started working with our samples! We took our samples and made an enrichment flask where M. smegmatis and our soil samples (which hopefully included phages!) sat for a while with phage buffer, in order to help replicate the phages and get a good amount.  We took another sample of our soil and began to prepare it for direct plating.  This was essentially mixing the soil with enough phage buffer to flood it, then extracting the top layer of the mixture in hopes of getting phages and mixing it with bacteria (a small sample) and spreading it with Top Agar onto a plate and letting that sit until next class.

Unfortunately, the direct plating did not produce any results, so I had to go back to the enriched flask in order to try and obtain a sample through that process.   We took 25 mL of that sample and centrifuged it, spread out that solution using a serial diluting process in order to obtain samples with varying concentration amounts.  These were then mixed with bacteria and placed with Top Agar onto plates and will sit there until next class where we will hopefully see plaques in the bacteria (proof that phages are there) and streak them!

I am looking forward to the next lab on Monday where hopefully I will see results! And I hope my fellow labmates will have success too!

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One Response to And the hunt is on!

  1. Beverly Wendland says:

    Thanks for explaining the difference between direct plating and enrichment – I had no idea that these two approaches would be applied, or were even necessary, but now that I know about it, it makes perfect sense. I’m looking forward to seeing pictures of plates with different numbers of plaques, according to the dilution series. That will also give you a good sense of the accuracy of your pipetting technique!

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