The Tiny Plaque That Could

By Augusto Ramirez
“Time to hunt for some phages”

I had been waiting all day to finally be able to collect my soil sample. Although I wanted to do it during the day, my roommate agreed to join me if I went at night. That way, people wouldn’t see us stabbing the ground with our Johns Hopkins sporks and putting the remains in our huge gallon storage Ziploc bags (the only ones we owned). We clearly had it all planned out. First we would go to “Bufano Garden,” behind the new Undergraduate Teaching Lab, and then go to “Decker Gardens,” by the Sea Urchin Fountain.

We grabbed our sporks, got our bags, and walked towards the cold Baltimore night looking for phage infested soil.

Phage Hunting


“The Real Hunting Begins”

On my first day of lab there was a lot going on… I had over-collected soil (I carried two soil samples, each in gigantic Ziplock bags, with me) and I had no idea that we were actually going to start working on the lab that same day. The experience of stepping into a lab and having to follow a strict protocol (to avoid contaminations) the first day of class was somewhat overwhelming. However, my newly found partner and I quickly caught on with what we had to do, and we eventually managed to get the day’s work done.

In the back of my head, however, I thought: “What if I chose the wrong soil sample to plate from?” “What if neither of my soil samples had phages?” “What if my plates got contaminated?” “What if I never find a phage?!”

“A Tiny Plaque of Luck”

The moment of truth!

The next day of class – it was time to see if there were any phages in our plates. As I put my lab coat on, I saw how my fellow phage hunters realized the fate of their direct plating procedure: no plaques (clear spots) meant no phages, no phages equaled to failure. I witnessed their unfortunate results and was ready to be dissapointed.


As I closely observed what seemed to be another plate of undisturbed “smeg” (Mycobacterium Smegmatis), I came across a round, minuscule, and cloudy area. It was as if some microscopic creature had taken a bite of the Top Agar on my plate.

It was honestly “The Only Plaque,” so I named it appropriately.

“Give the Little Plaque a Chance”

The Only Plaque” was a tiny little speck of opportunity. It was potentially a real plaque, or it could have been a popped bubble or “smeg” that spread around an area.

I believed.

So, in order to test its validity as a plaque I had to streak it to another plate. I gently streaked “The Only Plaque” in hopes of it multiplying into many of its own.

and then I waited…

The Only Phage


“Welcome to Plaque Nation”

What used to be a tiny dot became a multitude of individual plaques. The phages had multiplied so often that the most dense streaked area was completely clear. The lonely plaque was now in a party full of identical copies of itself. This showed me how such a small amount of phage can quickly multiply into a colony. It was truly one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. Just the simple fact that my procedures and actions made this process possible to witness on the plate is amazing.

I’m happy I gave that little plaque a chance… It made me proud!

Plaques Everywhere



About manbearpimp

One day, I'll do something big.
This entry was posted in From the Phage Hunters and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Tiny Plaque That Could

  1. Pingback: The Tiny Plaque That Could | jhublogs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s