By Natalia Medeiros
It was the last day of O-Week (Orientation Week) when I finally got around to reading my email and realized that I needed to get some soil ASAP. At 6 PM, I stuffed a zip lock bag in my pocket and rushed out the door, already running late to a Pre-Med seminar I wanted to attend. Halfway through the seminar, my friends and I decided to ditch, and we headed out the door. On our way back to the dorm, we detoured to the edge of Wyman Park. In spite of the fact that I had forgotten to bring spoons, my friends helped me collect some soil. There we were: the four of us, crouching by the entrance to Wyman Park on a drizzling Monday night, digging through the soil with our bare hands. For the next few days, the four of us had dirt deeply embedded under our fingernails. It was pretty gross.
Fast forward three months from then.
Honestly, one of the things that has surprised me most during my short time at Hopkins is how inevitable change is. There have been significant changes in my Hopkins experience since that last night of O-Week: not only do I have a completely new group of friends now, but I also decided to switch from pre-med to pre-vet. So, pretty much everything that I thought was constant in my college experience at that point in time has changed. Except for one thing: my phage!
The soil sample I collected with my friends that night contained the phage that I am still working with today, almost an entire semester later. That phage has stuck by my side throughout the last three months — my friend groups have changed, my academic pursuits have changed, but my phage has always been there.
However, it hasn’t always been easy. First, I was dealing with widespread yellow bacterial contamination. Once I had finally mastered aseptic technique, I was confronted with a new challenge: suspicious size variation. This led to weeks of tedious streaking. Wasted plate after wasted plate, I finally got a plate with homogeneous plaques and, thus, a single morphology. After that, I spent two and a half weeks desperately trying to get a web plate. And, exactly a week ago, I got one. I was finally able to start my HTL and, today, I started my DNA prep.
This class has been a lot more challenging than I expected it to be. I have had to put in a lot of extra hours to compensate for being a bit behind schedule. But, it has been well worth it. Phage Hunters has been a very unique experience. It is refreshing to take a break from lecture and go to the lab. In all my other classes, I am taught by being spoken at. But in this class we learn in a very hands-on way, through procedure. It has been difficult, and frustrating at times, but I’m so happy I joined this class.
Here’s my phage: