By Annmarie Tsai
As I walk towards the piles of plates at the end of the table, I’m always excited and hopeful to greet the little circles on the plates that are my plaques. More often than not, I have found myself disappointed for one reason or another. From having no plaques from the soil that I dug up with my bare hands to finding contamination in my plates on another day, I have gone through many setbacks during my time as a phage hunter. However, this doesn’t mean that I’ve given up hope, or that I dislike this class for making me want to rip my hair out at times. It’s quite the opposite, actually!
Even though I’ve had to repeat different steps multiple times before moving on, it has made it so that when I do get the results that I want, I feel a hundred times happier. Plus, I’ve learned quite a lot from all of my failures in the lab. Having to repeat steps allowed me to become better at these steps so that I am able to work faster and more carefully. Something as simple as not creating bubbles when pipetting out liquids onto the plates took me weeks to get used to. Now that I’m an expert at plating, I’m excited anytime I have to do plating because I can be proud of the fact that I don’t have to circle anymore bubbles that could be mistaken for plaques with a Sharpie. Making mistakes is completely normal in everyday life, and so my dreams of immediately getting plaques on the first day of lab were a little unrealistic. It’s all about trial and error in this lab. There are times when even though I’ve followed the directions word for word, and I’ve made sure to keep everything sterile, some contamination will occur and my plates will end up with two different plaque morphologies when I was trying to dilute only one.
In this class, everyone will be on different steps, but the important thing is that we all will eventually reach our goal of purifying our own phages. There will be ups and downs throughout this semester, but that’s what’s fun about this class! We learn from failure, and I’ve learned to welcome it because what’s so great about having everything go smoothly, right? It’s the journey that counts, and I honestly have to say that this has been one of my favorite classes that I’ve ever taken.