By Jody Law
Before coming to Johns Hopkins, I barely had any lab experience. As a result, I was very nervous, but also excited about having 2 labs, Phage Hunting and Intro Chem Lab. For this blog post, I will compare these two labs based off of 3 categories: Structure, “Coolness”, and Lab Experience. (Disclaimer: This is purely my opinion, so please don’t get upset if you disagree.)
Round 1: Structure
Chem Lab – This lab meets only once a week, and we do a different experiment almost every week. As a result, this lack of continuity does not allow me to feel the anticipation and suspense of going into the lab the next week. Also, although it is very important to be very detailed in a lab notebook, this lab has me spending time on writing more than actually doing the experiment, and I eventually lose interest in the experiment itself.
Phage Hunting – This lab meets two times a week, and all of the labs are continuous. I started with a phage population, and after a month, I am still doing different procedures with that same phage population. I am always in eager anticipation for the next lab day because I want to see how my phages are doing. Also, I appreciate the fact that in my lab notebook, I don’t have to spend more than half my time writing every step, every instrument used, every measurement, well, you get the point. I only need to write down my observations, the general procedure, and that’s it. Simple as that.
Winner of Round 1: Phage Hunting
Round 2: “Coolness”
Chem Lab: As much as chemistry confuses me, I have to say that the experiments are kind of awesome. Most people might not think it is interesting when a solution changes from green to blue to purple, but for some reason, I can’t help but be amazed. It’s crazy to think how small molecules can break apart or join together just by simple additions of other molecules.
Phage Hunting: For this lab, it’s interesting to see how incubating a plate that looks absolutely clear, even though I know that there are phages there, can cause the plate to be covered with hundreds of plaques. However, overall, there hasn’t been anything radical or unexpected yet that made me think, “Wow, that was so cool!”
Winner of Round 2: Chem Lab
Round 3: Lab Experience
Chem Lab: The only people I ever communicate with in this lab are my lab partner and my TA. My TA’s job seems to only be to give me chemical solutions and to collect and grade my work. Since the TA doesn’t help me understand the procedure, my lab partner and I are stuck trying to guess our way through the experiment and hope that we are doing it right. The professor does walk around the lab sometimes, but since there are about 100 students, it is impossible for her to pay attention and help everyone.
Phage Hunting: If there is one thing that I love most about this class, it is the fact that help is only a few feet away. If I am ever confused about the procedure, a TA or Dr. Schildbach is always there to help. I remember my first day of lab when I was doing a completely different procedure than everyone else. I had no clue what to do, so I asked a TA to help me. I expected her to just gloss over the procedure and leave me to struggle through it, but surprisingly, she stayed near my bench and helped me along to the end, step by step. All the students around me had also been patient in explaining how to do certain things when I was lost. Everybody has been so helpful, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with.
Winner of Round 3: Phage Hunting
Overall Winner: PHAGE HUNTING!
What more can I say? This lab reigns supreme. I absolutely love this class, and I look forward to going to it every time.