Ramblings After Disappointing Results

By Caryn Carson

Okay, so we’re now into the business of getting actual lab results…sort of.  It’s been three weeks since our first gathering of dirt, and since then some people have gotten some seriously awesome plaques.  They’ve done streaking and spot tests and had beautiful dilutions.  And then the other 2/3 of the class, well, we haven’t gotten such nice results.

I did four direct platings and one enrichment before today, and I did three more direct platings today.  So far I have found absolutely no bacteriophages that enjoy munching up M. smegmatis.  I thought I had a couple, on my 10^(-2) and 10^(-3) plates from the enrichment, but those turned out to be probably bubbles.  Silly bubbles.  I won’t get into more specifics about lab happenings, because that’s most likely rather boring to people who aren’t lab rats.

Judging from people’s descriptions, a lot of us have either no results, or only one or two plaques so far.  Even though it’s very disappointing, it is nice knowing how many other people are in the same situation.  Going out to find another sample, seeing another person with two orange capped 15 mL conical tubes and a plastic knife, trying to find a different place to grab some dirt, it makes me feel closer to everyone, despite not remembering the names of the people on the other half of the room.

Getting away from the disappointment of the results, it has been an amazing three weeks in the lab.  I worked in a lab two years ago, and I really enjoyed lab work, especially pipetting.  I didn’t get to do much last year, so I’m glad that now I can get back into it.  It has also been fun getting to know the other students around me.  Luke really tries his hardest to make our life on the east(?) half of the room entertaining by messing with Victoria.

Altogether, I’m incredibly happy that I decided to take this class.  Even with the occasional disorganization, thorough lack of results, and constant threat of burning hair, it has been a very good experience so far.  This is definitely my favorite class, and though I have no phages, the people around me have some and I am rooting for them to continue to be awesome.

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3 Responses to Ramblings After Disappointing Results

  1. Bryan Gibbon says:

    Keep your chin up! There is plenty of time to capture a phage yet! Last year we had one student that tried 6 (!) different soil samples before finally capturing a phage. You can and will do this, I promise!

    BTW- disorganization is typical of research labs… You never know what you are going to find or obstacles you are going to run into.

  2. Only occasional disorganization? I’ll take that as a compliment — and a tribute to our terrific TAs.

    Concerning isolation —- Emily and I were concerned about having as many students as possible in the running for having a phage sequenced, so we wanted everyone to have isolated or adopted a phage by the fourth week. Brian — do you let the students go longer?

  3. Beverly Wendland says:

    Dear Caryn (and other temporarily plaque-challenged students):
    One of my favorite things to say in such a situation is, “That’s why they call is RE-search!” Part of the process of science that many people don’t understand until they are doing it is that it is unpredictable. It’s GREAT when everything works, and it can be frustrating when it does not, which is the more frequent state for most scientists. But, one often learns much more from the struggles to make it work, and when it finally does, it feels like that much greater of a victory.
    I’m glad that you are able to maintain a positive outlook – this sort of tenacity and resilience are key attributes of a happy (and successful) scientist!
    Dr. Wendland

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