By Ashley Yuen
First, can I just say that I got really lucky? And that sometimes listening to your academic advisor (especially as a lowly, little pre-frosh picking classes in the summer) can be a really good thing—well mostly because the reason I took Phage Hunting was because she off-handedly said, “I think you should take this.”
And maybe because I’m so easily persuaded, or I didn’t know or care what I was taking so much, I just said, “Okay.”
Well, three months down the road, two or three days off my first freshmen advising appointment, I can tell you that telling me to take Phage Hunting was probably the best (and only really, and I mean really, valuable thing) she’s done for me yet.
I don’t think I’ll go on about what I first thought about the class—but really, just freshman mistake, waiting in the wrong room, just about half the class, talking about dirt samples.
And despite the setbacks, well one—and by setback I mean I was the only person in our Tuesday/Thursday section to not only fail at obtaining plaques through direct plating, but also failing with the enrichments. I was the one in our twenty-something person class who couldn’t get anything and so I faced the flood of rain a week or two into class to get a new dirt sample from right outside the UTL—I think I’ve learned a lot.
Then again we’re not exactly being babied, which I appreciate. So it started with using my first Bunsen burner on day one, then insane amounts of streaking and always with aseptic technique. I’ve isolated a pure phage population and worked to obtain its DNA. Everything has gone more or less smoothly for me, no crazy morphologies, but a consistent morphology and more or less no contamination. Streaking, webplates, MTL, calculations, more webplates, HTL, DNA Prep, EM, QC Gel. But I honestly don’t think I, or anyone else, realizes how much practical experience we’ve gotten because it just seems that Phage Hunting is just all fun. Which it is, don’t get me wrong, Tuesdays and Thursdays are my favorite days of the week (well, Chem I and Calc I aren’t helping getting me to like MWF anyways!) but as much as it is fun, there’s definitely a lot to be said about getting used to a lab setting.
But hey, let me talk about the fun things too—and it’s fun, I promise, I even have photos! I’m just going to have fun with this blog post and talk about what’s come out of this class that I wasn’t even originally invested in taking.
I have some incredible team-work with my lab partner: Marissa. Well, half the time we derp around and crack jokes and get a bit side-tracked, but I know she even has my back in lab, especially when it comes to dealing with my scatter-brained habits of forgetting things.
And then there’s Hunter (Phage Hunter Rischer! He’s in the photo up there with Marissa!)—well, we probably wouldn’t have been friends if Marissa and I hadn’t randomly sat with him after lab at the FFC. Which is what we do, by the way, that’s dunch. A combination of dinner and lunch, every Tuesday and Thursday after lab. It’s as good a bonding time as whenever something bad happens in lab to someone, like chunky top agar, lack of webplates for weeks and weeks at a time, having to go back to the HTL or even the MTL, or terrible DNA results (and yes, even in this lab, misfortune and bad luck seems to bring us closer together! As they say, people get closer together in hardship, and when they sing, but we haven’t gotten there yet though just wait until late November and early December when the Christmas songs start kicking in).
That’s a picture of Christine looking through the bottom of my cup last week during dunch. I was really interested in how there was this section of the bottom of the cup without condensation because it looked like a man walking.
And while I’m getting to know more and more people in the lab—there’s JJ, who more or less saved me from burning my arm, Taylor who is also in my Bio Workshop class and is the funniest, quirkiest girl, the “Contamination Queen,” Zach who lives in my building and we always go support him at his shows, Deborah who I see all the time, everywhere in BLC and the FFC, Vanessa who’s with her all the time and loves cats (me too!!), there’s Jody who’s always lightening quick getting in and out of lab, there’s Christine who’s always super cold whenever I see her now, well I guess that’s a side-effect from moving here from California, and Matt and Andrew and Anna and Winston and Maggie and Kareem and Billy and Arjun and Daniel and Celina and Hammaad and Andrea and Sean and Laura and Tegan and Russ and Uriel and Dr. Schildbach too—it’s starting to feel like more than just a class or a lab.
As much as Phage Hunting is about this, and I’m thinking of naming him Napoleon:
And dealing with DNA and centrifuging and vortexing and pipetting to really no end, there are two sides to this lab that really make it the gem it is. We’re not only learning, but growing as our own little phage family, or should I say … ‘phage phamily.’
Wow … Sorry, that was not ‘phunny’ at all.