By J. J. Louw
In high school, the extent of my lab skills as it pertained to Biology simply meant being able to watch and record time simultaneously as spinach disks rose to the top of a cup. Riveting stuff, right? That stereotypical idea of a biologist working with bacteria and viruses, using complex equipment, performing complex protocols and procedures? Forget about it. That kind of stuff didn’t come until at least sophomore year in college, if not later.
I’ll be honest – when I first signed up for Phage Hunting I really had no idea what to expect from the class. I’d heard of it via the Class of 2017 Facebook group after someone mentioned that their academic advisor had recommended the class. On a whim I signed up, thinking it would be a way for me to continue taking some kind of biology without having to suffer through a big lecture style intro. class.
In hindsight, it turned out to be a great decision. Three weeks into the class, and we’re already using equipment and protocols that stretch far beyond anything I’d ever been able to do in my IB Biology class. It was daunting at first. It felt like we were being thrown right into the deep end with some of the equipment, and the absolute last thing I wanted to do on my first class was somehow break some of the undoubtedly expensive equipment.
Honestly, I prefer that approach. I liked the feeling of not being babied. It was liberating that the course just trusted you’d be able to figure it out what had to be done. And if you couldn’t? Well you had strong support and wealth of experience from the TAs, and Dr. Schildbach and Dr. Fisher. The smaller size of the class makes it feel as if my voice is heard; coming from a small, international school where we had a lot of facetime with the professors, it’s something that’s been both an adjustment and struggle so far at Hopkins.
However, back to the subject – Phage! I’m still deep in the process of purifying my phage samples. Direct Plating was a bust, but Enrichment yielded plaques, and now I’ve got two distinct morphologies – both a lytic and temperate phage. The work so far has been quick and easy, but we’ll see how things are once I start the process of isolating and marking the phages. Let the hunt for a #winning phage begin!