by Peter Kalugin
Having started this semester with much more previous knowledge than the first, we have progressed faster and learned more. Ideas of protein structure, coding potential, and Shine-Dalgarno sequences have replaced “oh my goodness, I got plaques!” in our conversations. The at times contentious class discussions have spurred us to share a lot of important information with each other and bonded us as a class rather than just a collection of lab pairs. However, every conversation sounds the same: one gene start has a higher Shine-Dalgarno score, the other contains more coding potential, the third decreases a gap between genes. As with many projects that require repeated cycles of the same procedure, annotation has become quite boring.
I am very excited to be writing my blog post this week because things are finally becoming more diverse and unpredictable. As we are finishing the annotation of our genome, we have all begun thinking about how we will use this treasure trove of information. The next few months of special projects promise to be much more exciting than anything we have seen in Phage Hunting all year – instead of all going through the same procedure, we will now be independent. Not only will this make our group talks much more interesting, with every member becoming an expert in their own field of bacteriophage study, but it will also multiply our output twentyfold. Some of us will continue digging around in the DNA Master files, looking for more subtle clues in Manatee’s genome, while others will return to the lab and directly manipulate our phages.
Though it seemed so exciting before, last semester now looks like nothing but a warm-up act for this one. We have all become much closer personally and much more able scientifically. Over the year, we have drastically matured in our handling of research. We are now being weaned from our books and procedures and guidelines; we can finally make a unique mark on the history of phage studies. I am confident that as a group, we will be able to create something lasting over the last few months of the semester. It really is incredible how far we have come.