By Vincent Duong
Everything was running smoothly. I had completed my phage titer assay and my MTL well ahead of schedule. My completion of the Phage Olympics pre-requisites was just (I thought) a couple lab days away.
The date was the 11th of October. I had prepared a series of web-plates (1/4x, 1/2x, 1x, 2x, and 4x) and was anticipating great results. My run through the semester had been flawless thus far.
Then disaster by the name of “contamination” struck. The scourge had infiltrated even my stronghold of aseptic technique and the first of several setbacks were dealt. I bore my heavy head with a determination and looked towards the next day, re-diluting and plating again.
On the 16th, I was struck down with a personal bout of contamination. Sick, I chose not to attend lab that day for risk of contaminating my plates personally.
On the 18th, however, I found my efforts futile as contamination proved itself to be unlike lightning, striking the safe haven known as my lab bench and the plates that were assembled on it yet again.
Maintaining composure, I re-plated my series again and hoped for the best for my third trial. A large margin of error had dwindled away to a close finish and precious time had been lost.
I came to discover success on the 23rd and continued onward with my 6-web-plate cluster. It was on the 23rd that I ran into contamination yet again! ***FRUSTRATION AND ANGER FORSAKE ME***
I had no choice but to redo the 6 plates again and wait yet another day. October 25th: contamination. I was finally able to flood my plates on the 6th of November and prepare a HTL serial dilution!
November 8th was yet another visit from contamination. By this point, I had turned the tables on fate and convinced myself that I had always wanted to become an expert in preparing dilutions. It was the only thing I could keep telling myself that would have kept me sane. I prepared another series for the 12th.
Now I stumbled upon a new phenomenon. By some miscommunication or a lack of labeling, the series that I prepared on the 8th was refrigerated instead of incubated. It was at this point that I stood there, with frosty plates in my hand, and realized how cold (no pun intended) fate could be. By this time, I would be scrambling to make the Phage Olympics. I relabeled the cluster for incubation and made sure there was no mistake this time and left the lab with no other option.
The 13th of November was a day of mixed emotions. I had found that my plates had been successful, but also that I would be just a hair late for the Phage Olympics. I, unfortunately, had to drop out of the running. Justin (my lab bench partner!), however, won the Phage Olympics and I was none the happier. For an entire semester, I had sat beside him and watched his trials and tribulations. He had undergone a much earlier bout with contamination than I and withstood and persevered. I was more than happy for him.
At this moment, I would like to apologize for an impromptu shout-out to Justin. ***CONGRATULATIONS!!!***
For the remainder of the time, I finished the rest of my requirements and reflected on my journey with my phage. I decided to bequeath the name of “Kamehameha” or “the lonely one” in Hawaiian to my hard work. Despite all the setbacks that I encountered towards the end of my research, my phage motivated me to continue on.
Success comes in many ways, some more subtle than others. I like to believe that although I did not win the Phage Olympics, what I learned throughout this first semester will be just as valuable as the feeling I would have had if I were to have won.