A Phage Story

By Katherine Le

If I had to summarize the grand lesson I learned this semester of Phage Hunting in one overly clichéd statement, it’d be “Patience is a virtue.” I have had more than my fair share of mistakes thus far. From contamination of every solution and agar plate possible to using wrong techniques that yielded no results week after week, I experienced much frustration with every failure. But with failure, I was also compensated with rewarding moments of success.

My phage’s story dates back to the beginning of September, the weekend before classes started. I collected my soil right outside of President Daniel’s house with Brian, the first friend I made in Phage Hunting. At the time we weren’t quite sure what exactly we were doing with the soil, so we were in for quite an awakening the first day of class.

The first day of lab was a whirlwind. Between meeting our new professors, peers, and alumni, we delved into the lab work immediately. I successfully directly plated my soil sample that first day. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this initial success would be met with a long period of consistent error. The entire month of October, I faced constant contamination. But with a lot of practice, I eventually isolated my plaque (which I originally named Kat63).  Luckily, I got a web plate directly from my titer assay, meaning that I got to skip the entire process of calculations.

I spent the past few weeks preparing my HTL and getting to know my phage a lot better. I finally got to see my baby phages under an electron microscope and run QC and digest gels on the DNA. Just this past week, I qualified as an Olympian for the Phage Olympics where we choose a champion phage to send on to sequencing. Unfortunately, I didn’t win, but I loved seeing all of the unique phages everyone has been working on all semester.

The semester is almost over, and I cannot believe how quickly it flew by. Just yesterday I was just in my first day of lab, trying to perform my first direct plating, and now an Olympian has been chosen. Although my phage was not chosen as the all-around best, I still had a great time these past few months getting to know Kat63, my awesome professors, and the friends I’ve made along the way.

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