By Elisabeth Wenneker
I have mixed solutions together in high school chemistry class to create precipitates and extracted strawberry DNA with dish soap and a Ziploc bag in biology, but I have never done laboratory research before becoming a Phage Hunter. Only thirty minutes into the first day of Phage Hunters, we were thrown into the lab, given lab coats and phage buffer and told to get to work. I was lost. Luckily enough, my lab partner worked in a research lab this past summer and knew how to use all the peculiar instruments lying on our bench in front of us. I was very confused that day, but with my partner at my side, soon enough I was able to distinguish a microcentrifuge tube from a micropipettor tip.
On the first day, the one thing I felt comfortable with was lighting the Bunsen burner. I struck that flint like it was my job. Gas flowing, sparks flying. I was the Bunsen burner queen. I asked my partner to turn the gas off in between parts of the experiment, claiming the flame was making me overheat. In reality, I just wanted to light the Bunsen burner again.
I felt a little more comfortable with the lab tools by the second day of class, but I still waited for my partner’s thumbs up before heading forward with the lab procedure. I was so focused on measuring the exact amount of “AD” for the enrichment flask, that I did not notice my favorite lab tool, the Bunsen burner, beneath my hand. I probably had my hand over the flame for at least three seconds before I realized my glove was melting and my skin was burning. Freaking out that the glove had melted into my skin, I ripped it off to find just a little bit of redness on my pinky. After a brief cold water wash, I was back on track with enrichment.
When I got in bed that night, my pinky was a little red, but I thought nothing of it. The next morning I woke up to find a skin bubble bursting from my pinky, just asking to be popped. I restrained myself from popping it, and I let it be. Throughout that day and the following day, it kept growing until it reached the size of a small peanut m&m.
I could not take notes in class for all I could do was stare at this bubble protruding from my finger.
Today was our third day in lab, and I am now incredibly comfortable with the tools, and just a tad fearful of the Bunsen burner. I have not found any plaques yet, but hopefully by Monday afternoon, my bubble will be gone, and my phages will appear.