By Christine Situ
I don’t think I’ll ever forget my first assignment here at Hopkins: Get some dirt. The goal of being a Phage Hunter is to isolate and characterize a bacteriophage from the environment. So if I’m looking for infectious viruses, where should I go hunting? The nastiest place I could find, of course!
I didn’t have enough guts to wander around sewage-y dirt areas, but I figured the area around the Fresh Food Café (FFC) was close enough. Tons of people walk by everyday, so there must be a chance that phages lurk. Despite all the weird stares I got as I very publicly dug around, I did this all in the name of science!
After entering the Undergraduate Teaching Labs (UTL) Tuesday afternoon, I saw all the cool gizmos and gadgets we got to use. Lab coats? Safety glasses? Hardcover lab manual? They give you all that! I could already tell this was going to be one of my favorite classes.
When we begun Direct Plating, I was worried I didn’t flood my soil sample with enough Phage Buffer. To my surprise, the syringe/filter contraption turned my chunky murky sample into an abundant amount clear liquid! (I think you can now assume that I get easily excited about even the tiniest things.) Literally everything from using the pipettor to learning how to properly remove your gloves AMAZED me. Though the first day ran longer than expected (future Phage Hunters should note that you should stuff yourself full before coming to lab), I couldn’t wait to find phages.
On Thursday, I checked my plate and saw….PLAQUES!!! I wanted to dance and jump around like crazy, but I’m really clumsy and no doubt would’ve dropped my precious plate by accident. It was definitely unexpected that no one else in my class had plaques. So, I had to move on by myself, confused and worried.
After bugging the TAs with help, I moved on to purifying my phages. I choose three isolated plaques and streaked them onto different agar plates. Several days later, I checked my plates and ohmygoodness MORE PLAQUES!
I’m still in the process of purifying my phages in hopes of getting a single phage population. I can’t wait to go to the lab later this week and see my plates! I think I’m getting too attached…I’ll probably end up naming them soon.