So before coming to Baltimore, I lived in Dubai. We don’t have much soil there… But we do have a lot of sand. It’s a different setting there, so flying halfway around the world has truly changed my perspective on a lot of things. And what was the first thing I did when I arrived in the USA, you ask? Scoop some soil into a zip lock bag, and prepare for one of the most amazing opportunities of my life.
A great researcher, Wernher von Braun, once said, “Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.” And in all honesty, I didn’t know what I was doing at first. From the sample collecting, to the direct plating, and the culture enrichment, I was completely lost. I kept questioning our procedures, and forgetting a step immediately after I just did it. I also somehow managed to misplace some of my samples, and equipment (my theory was that they were stolen). Throughout this whole time, there was this constant fear floating around me that I was never going to get far in this lab… But then there was this sudden realization I had when I got my plates back from my second direct plating; research fails all the time, and I wasn’t about to give up hope on my little viruses for nothing.
For the first 2 weeks I watched plate after plate fail… epically. I had no plaques. If anything I had a contamination or two. But when I got my results from the culture enrichment, I was ecstatic. I could finally go streaking! (Fair warning: avoid saying this aloud when no one knows you’re referring to hunting phages).
Looking at the 5 sample plates, and one negative control plate I got from my culture enrichment, I could finally see some results of use. The best plates were my -3 and -2 plates. The -1, 0, and negative control plates had way too many plaques, and the -4 had far too few. When I did my first streak, I used a basic zigzag procedure, where I dipped a stick onto the most isolated plaque I could find, and spread it in a zigzag shape across the side of a plate. I then used 2 more sticks and continued on. I then combined smeg with top agar, and poured it onto the plate. Frankly… that failed too. Moving a plate with top agar too early can really mess everything up.
So I did my primary streak a second time, this time with a T-streak (another kind of streak with 3 different sticks) and I made sure not to move the plaques too early and… it did not fail! Everything was finally falling into place, and I was one step closer to finding my own phages. On Monday the 24th of September, I did my secondary streak, and this Friday I’m finally going to see if it all works out.
When I first signed up for this class I was naïve, confused, and nervous. But in all honesty, everything worked out perfectly… Though I need to find a way to stop getting lost when looking for lab.