By Caitlin Barrett
I walked into Phage Hunting completely convinced the only reason I was there was to fulfill those irksome natural science credits I needed in order to become a Classics major. The first several weeks only confirmed that, as I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Despite how hard I tried, I simply could not understand the science-y lingo in the SEA-PHAGES manual, and often just copied my lab partner. I feared the day that I would somehow get ahead of her in lab and would be forced to discern what the heck I was supposed to do on my own. Well, that day came. I found a new group of people to explain to me what I was doing in the 3 others who went to EM with me. We were ahead of the rest of the class, and I was totally confused as to how I got there. I didn’t even understand what I was doing. To me, it seemed like I was just putting endless liquids into endless little tubes. I had (and still have) absolutely no idea why I was doing these things. Then, one by one, my new guides were forced to repeat steps. I was left alone, now without even the SEA-PHAGES manual to guide me. I felt like I had been dropped off in the middle of New York City without a map, a real fear for me because I have absolutely no sense of direction. I began to internally panic.
At some point mid-panic attack I realized how I, the only person in the class with a non-science/pre-med major, got to be ahead of everyone who knew what they were doing. I had an awesome phage. My phage followed every single protocol perfectly. Nothing had gone wrong. I didn’t have to worry about not having a web or 2 new morphologies. I felt as if my phage was a kind guardian angel, leading me safely through each procedure.
I was already in love with my phage before this realization. I started falling in love with my phage when I went to do EM. I went into EM frightened by the sound of it. I had no idea what it was, and electron microscopy sounded like a weird, painful medical procedure involving electricity. Turns out, it’s totally painless, and you get to actually see your phage. When my phage first appeared on the computer screen, I felt like a mom. My phage (child) was finally here.
Since I already loved my phage, realized that it followed all the protocols, I became convinced my phage was perfect. I’m still convinced. I felt a connection with my phage. I decided to name it Psyche, Latin for soul, because my phage seems to be so much more than a simple bacteriophage. My phage and I are a team, and I couldn’t be happier.