By Lizzy Glass
I first heard about the Phage Hunting class when I visited during SOHOP this past April. The class sounded interesting, and I was fascinated by the research component of the course. I planned my entire schedule around Phage Hunting, and when the time came, I enrolled in the class.
A few days before leaving for Hopkins, I received an email from the Professor Schildbach instructing the students to collect dirt samples before the first day of class. I decided to take an unconventional route with this first assignment. My Miami home is located right on Biscayne Bay, a naturally occurring bay that has been negatively affected by the city around it. I thought that it would be interesting to collect and study a dirt sample from my aqueous “backyard.” I painstakingly scaled down rocks to crouch in the bay and collect my fully saturated, muddy sample, while trying to avoid the garbage, scattered debris, and marine life in the process.
My mother packed up the sample very, very tightly using Ziploc bags and duct tape, and we stored it away in one of the many suitcases that contained everything I would need for college. By some miracle, when we arrived at Hopkins the fully saturated bay sample did not leak out, and it was intact for the first day of class.
My first day as a Phage-Hunter was overwhelming. For someone who had never stepped foot in a lab before, direct plating was a very difficult and intimidating task, and I learned that reading the lab manual can never really prepare you for the real thing. Phage hunting has already taught me that you can really only learn something by trying it yourself. And try I did; I somehow managed to plate my sample and control onto the agar plates with minimal collateral damage.
I came into the next class anxious to see my results. Unfortunately, there were no plaques on my agar plates. After enriching and plating 6 dilutions, I once again failed to get any plaques, forcing me to retire my Biscayne Bay sample. I gathered dirt from the promising community garden and enriched it. Hopefully, now I will get the plaques I need. I am learning that Phage Hunting requires a positive attitude, confidence and a little bit of luck.