Second Semester: Phages, Tanning Beds, and a Well-Timed Work Schedule

By J. J. Louw

I started off second semester with my head spinning, still trying to recover from the insane, lazy, and carefree period otherwise known as intersession. In retrospect, starting off the semester on a poor start was not ideal. Lately, it seems that I’ve continued to play catch up, and that affected the first part of Phage Hunting II for me.

Last semester, Phage Hunting was by far my favorite class. I liked the laid back, but interesting experimental work that we were doing. Unfortunately, Phatniss hadn’t been fully sequenced yet so we weren’t able to dive right in with the annotation of the gene sequence. As a result, the phage readings and assignments were pushed up while we waited for Phatniss to come back. Sounds fairly straight forward right? Well, it turns out that no matter how many times I read through the journal articles, the ratio of understanding to complete, crippling confusion was heavily skewed in favor of confusion. A lot of the upper biology concepts seemed completely foreign to me and I couldn’t understand them no matter how many times I sat down with them. For the first time, I felt my enthusiasm for the class fading, especially as I found myself increasingly more and more busy as the semester waned on.

To add to the fantastic vortex of confusion, frustration, and fatigue, my work schedule started rubbing up very closely with phage class. I work until 12:30 on Tuesdays which means if I miss the JHMI shuttle, I am almost certainly late. My absence in class has been detected prompting several jokes about whether I even go here (I’ve been told that this is a Mean Girls reference, but having not seen the movie the hilarity is lost on me).

Things have started working out a little better over the last week. Things that pulled my time away from my coursework have let up a bit, I spoke with my boss about leaving a little earlier to make sure I get the shuttle, and I’ve rediscovered some of the passion and enthusiasm for phage that I lost last semester with my personal experiment proposal. I can’t wait to see how my phage responds to the UV exposure. Maybe it’ll develop an kickass tan (bad joke I know, but give me some slack, I’m running on fumes here).

So here’s to a good semester; maybe I’ll still be sane by the end.

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