Life of a Scientist

Its almost Phage Olympics here at the phage lab, and all the phage hunters are trying to get their phages purified and DNA prepped in time to see who’s phage gets the title of Olympian. My case is not that simple, not only am I, as many others are, behind some deadlines (oops) but also the genealogy of my phage is not that simple. Its about right to ask sometimes when I see my plates, “Who’s the dad?”

Lets backtrack a little. When I picked my 14th or so dirt sample as I was going one day to Lab session, I did not expect anything to come out of it. By that time I had adopted, TWICE, and one of them had died during the contamination some of my fellow phage hunters have written about. Thanks to Derek I decided to pick up fresh soil from outside of Wolman and do one last enrichment. I titled this my “Hope” enrichment, this was my last attempt to get an original phage (mainly for time constraints). During the enrichment some things had to be done in a very unorthodox manner, as most of the enrichment materials were out of stock by then. Dr. Schildbach improvised a manual filtering mechanism and I plated all my dilutions. I just wished that Dr. Schildbach had the magic touch. To my surprise the results were magnificent.

I chose to streak from multiple concentrations and in spite of a few troubles (sled agar, and the incubator fiasco), after three or so streaks I was ready to perform my titer assay on three different phages: a big cloudy one, a medium clear and a small clear. However, I had tough luck with this the first time I tried. My calculations were poor and I had diluted my phage way more than I needed. No wonder the plates were empty! After a few corrections I am back on track and if errors are to be prevented, the EM will be waiting for me next week!

I guess what I am trying to point out with this rant on my phage story is that for most of the time science doesn’t work as straightforward as we would want it to be. Sometimes we need to run a few dozen of trials until the first positive results come out. Or we might need to use alternate techniques to make things work with the resources we have. Or calculations might be wrong, or a person might forget to turn on an incubator. However, in face of all the difficulties of science, it is in the scientist nature to endure forward in hopes that at the end we can say something useful was obtained. Or in our case that a new phage was discovered!

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