By Sean Melucci
Coming from a public school with little to no money for science, my education revolved around lectures, textbooks, and tests. Sadly, there was no time or funding for learning through experience. For that reason, when I heard about this class during SOHOP, it immediately put Hopkins at the top of my list. In the real world you are successful through experience and not just knowing things from a textbook, so this was a huge factor for me when making my college decision. Now that this semester is almost over, I can definitely say without a doubt that I made the right decision, and this class has a lot to do with it!
My first day of this class was interesting to say the least. Expecting to be told all of the steps, taught how to perform the necessary techniques, and showed how to use all of the equipment, I was surprised when we were all thrown into the mix, and told to do direct plating immediately. I spent so much time in that class wandering aimlessly wondering exactly what to do. It even got to the point where I messed up using a pipet-aid by accidentally pressing the button too long to the point where agar got stuck in the top of the pipet-aid and hardened. Feeling like a complete and total failure, I proceeded with the procedure but extremely carefully and cautiously. Looking back at this moment, I realized that this kind of learning is essential to working in the sciences. People aren’t going to hold your hand and teach you things, you need to figure them out yourself and even look to discover new things. This class really shows you what working in a lab of some sort is really like. Everyone in this class at some point has messed up or run into unexpected results, but they continued on, even more carefully, and got the successful results that they were looking for. This class really has added a different element to my learning experience and showed me a different side to the sciences that a textbook just cannot.
The day I had been looking forward to for so long in this class was the day I got to actually see my phage using the electron microscope! I was extremely surprised that they would give up their time and money to allow us to visually see the fruits of our labor. What college lets freshman undergraduates view their phages using a machine worth hundreds of thousands of dollars?!? Apparently, Hopkins does, and it makes me realize how lucky I am to go here and take this amazing class. The image of my phage really gives perspective and meaning to all the work, stressful or not, that I did and how fortunate I am to be a part of this class.
Overall, despite sometimes being completely lost, accidentally breaking things, and unexpectedly finding contamination in my plates, I looked forward to every Phage Hunting Class on Tuesday and Thursday! I knew that whatever I faced that class period, I would figure out what I needed to in order to obtain successful results. This class gave me the tools I need to succeed in science and in life. I truly believe that this class makes Hopkins unique and one of the best universities!