By Taylor Veralli
As my fellow Tuesday and Thursday phage hunters could probably tell you, I haven’t had the luckiest time in the lab. It’s at the point where I’m pretty sure everyone (I hope affectionately) refers to me as the notorious “contamination girl.” You may laugh, but I’ve had to fight off my fair share of evil, ugly bacteria. Something about my darling phages is just so susceptible to the gnarliest of contamination. Do not fret however, for I have beaten the contamination three times already. I’m still worried about a resurgence though; they’re probably planning something as I type this.
You would think my dear phages would be grateful for the clean environment that I kindly provide for them, but that is not the case. Instead they act out, like difficult teenagers (it’s okay I just was one). One would eat everything in sight, and get so big that no M. smegmatis lived to tell the tale. That one required a much lower concentration to finally mellow out and become manageable. The other one would disappear for weeks, then suddenly reappear as 3 different morphologies (going through what I can only imagine was a difficult period of self discovery). Motherhood is not entirely a thankless job, though; I finally have what I hope is a calm, mature, and well-behaved single phage population!
I could spent this whole time complaining about my lack of microbial luck, but I’ll be the larger life form here and give it a rest. Honestly, I love this class. No matter how long it may have taken to dilute two separate phage populations (for a total of 12 plates) that one day, I truly enjoyed every second of it. Never before have I been in a lab doing such exciting things. This will probably sound crazy, but almost every Tuesday/Thursday after class I have this mini epiphany that I am growing (and attempting to control) a population of microscopic life, that would have been very happy to continue living in the dirt if I didn’t happen to pick it up. I then go on to bore and confuse my friends and family with my genuine excitement over whatever happened in lab that week. Anyway, phage hunting is definitely the most fun I have in class (nothing can compare to the thrill of seeing what has/hasn’t grown in your plates every time you enter the lab) and I am so happy my advisor casually suggested that I add it to my schedule.