By John Korleski
1) Phage hunter- one who tests soil in hopes of finding mycobacteriophages
2) The phage games- the race to see which phage will complete purification and be selected for DNA testing
A unique marvel unravels in the undergrad teaching labs at Johns Hopkins University. Yet, the source of this marvel is unexpected. The undergrad teaching labs hold numerous PhD chemists, biologists, and those of many other academic fields, who produce magnificent research for the academic community. However, the source of the marvel comes not from these academic giants, but rather from the developing giants running around the bigger giant’s feet. More specifically, this marvel comes from 24 phage hunters that occupy the lab Mondays and Wednesdays.
The stage is set. 24 young freshman were given a goal. This goal? To create his or her first novel impact on the scientific community. This impact comes in the form of discovering new mycobacteriophages. However, there is only one slight problem. Only one phage will be picked at the end of the semester for further DNA testing. The implications of this means that out of the 24 individual phages the freshman will discover, only one will make it through to DNA sequencing. Thus the phage games begins.
The phage games comes from the popular movie “The Hunger Games.” In which, two children from a district are sent into a “game” where they fight to the death, and the last one standing is crowned the victor. Similarly, the phage games –a completely made up term I myself created- starts with over 24 mycobacteriophages from each lab station and at the end only one will stand. Each lab station will pick only one mycobacteriophage to enter in the phage games. So how have these freshmen determined what mycobacteriophage will represent their lab station? To answer this question, the experience of Jack Korleski’s lab station will be observed.
Representing the only lab station where goggles are worn every lab section, Jack Korleski has recently crowned his lab station representative in this year’s phage games. The process consumed much of Korleski’s time and thought over these past few weeks, and the final decision brings relief in his life. It all started when the results of enriching his soil sample were observed. These results displayed a possible four different plaque morphologies, potentially from 4 different mycobacteriophages in Korleski’s sample. The prospect of determining a representative from four possibilities overwhelmed this young freshman’s mind. Yet, his mind quickly calmed after the result of streaking proved that only two different plaque morphologies. Then after a few more rounds of streaking, the decision became clear. Korleski knew which mycobacteriophage would represent his lab station. This plaque type is denoted by #1 –refer to picture. While the decision is complete, the games have only just begun. Korleski must now generate an original, creative name to associate with his mycobacteriophage. After this, Korleski must prove, through data and marketing, why his mycobacteriophage must be crowned phage champion.
Will Jack Korleski’s mycobacteriophage win the phage games? Or will another lab station produce the victor? The answer is unknown but shall be determined. Good luck to all those who compete and may the phages be ever in your favor!