By Sahini Pothireddy
Six months ago, I was struggling to answer the question “What are bacteriophages?” on my AP biology exam; are they bacteria that infects viruses or are they viruses that infect the bacteria? And now, I am hunting bacteriophages.
This class not only improved my lab techniques, but also gave me a different perspective on the molecular and cellular world and what legit research entails. Before this class, I was under the impression that research only constituted of reading various papers that were fifty-pages or so in length and analyzing that information – at least that is what research meant eons ago in middle-school and high-school. But now, I realize how much of a hands-on experience research is. We did not just read the textbook and the internet – we actually did the procedures. We found the soil samples, we isolated the different phages, we found the concentration of the phage, we isolated the phages some more, we purified the DNA, and we ran the gels to analyze the morphologies of the phages. We have journeyed from a soil sample to admitting a new morphology of a phage to the scientific community – it really is an experience.
Also, research has always been some fantasy; something that I eventually had to do to get into medical school. I constantly heard about this research project or that, one ingenious professor or another who have gotten great acclaim for their research and how much they influenced the world for the better, but I never fully grasped that one day that I would actually be doing research. It was after 11 weeks of bittersweet moments that I finally understood that I was contributing a small piece to the scientific community myself (I added another phage to the phage database), that I was actually conducting research. Seeing my phage under the EM really helped me grasp how fulfilling research can be as well as how important it can be. The picture of The Hoodwinker, the name of my annoying yet adorable little phage, made me finally understand how far I have really come since taking that AP Biology exam. It has been a truly wonderful experience, and even though, The Hoodwinker and I have to part ways now, it will not be forgotten.
As for that question on the exam, the answer was viruses infecting bacteria and I did get it right!