Phage Hunting is Phun!

by Jessica Park

Two weeks have passed by since my journey at JHU began. I would proudly say that Phage Hunting lab has been the  most interesting class out of the five courses I am taking. I barely had a idea of what this course was all about before I entered Macaulay 101/202. I heard about this class when I visited Hopkins for SOHOP last April. Unexpectedly, my hostess was a freshman (at that time) taking Phage Hunting for both fall and spring semester. She had a picture of her phage on the wall and talked enthusiastically about her phage and how interesting the class has been. That was the sole inspiration for taking this course. Now I realize how lucky I was for having her as my SOHOP hostess.

Time to talk about the actual process of hunting a phage! On the first day of the lab, we, the phage hunters, brought the soil samples we brought from our hometowns or around the campus (I found one around the campus). Then we used “direct plating” method to find a phage in the soil sample. Next class, the result was revealed: no phage. To be honest, it was pretty disappointing even though Dr. Fisher and Dr. Schildbach assured those who did not find plaques in their plates that we will be able to find one next time. So we took a “field trip” to a community garden and brought another soil sample and directly plated the sample again. This time, we also used “enrichment” method which is said to have more chance of discovering a phage.

Another disappointing result came during the next class. No phage from the second direct planting. I’d say the hardest part of failing to find any phage is throwing away the agar plates I carefully spent time to add different liquids and all. I felt like saying goodbye to a pet I have been with for a long time. Hopefully, I will succeed in finding a phage next class. Maybe…. Even if I don’t, I still have more time….Talking of being optimistic!

Despite the frequent disappointment, I love what I do in Phage Hunting, and I am so thankful to be part of the cool Phage Hunters.

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