It’s in our jeans…or rather, our genes!

By Elizabeth Liu

I started the semester super excited that I was enrolled in phage hunting. It was one of my favorite classes last semester and I would look forward to it every Monday and Wednesday – it was very hands-on and everyone could go at their own pace. This semester, however, has been a little different.

We moved away from the “wet lab” part and started to focus more on annotating the genes from Altwerkus, the phage that won the Phage Olympics last semester. Altwerkus has about 103 “genes” – some of them don’t actually encode anything, and it’s our job to decide which ones are actual genes and which ones are not. When we started the first gene as a class, it took us almost an hour to finish because half of the class did not have their DNA Masters (the program we used) working and it took the other half a while to navigate the confusing layout. But as the days passed, we all got more familiar with annotation – the first time I annotated a gene alone, it took me about an hour, but now it only takes me a solid 5 to 10 minutes!

I would have to say that the most interesting part of this semester has been the group presentations (we were separated into groups of 4 to 5 in order to annotate the genes faster). Each group would be responsible for annotating 20 genes presenting 10 of them every week until we were done with the whole genome. It was interesting to hear the discussion because, since the location of the start codons and the length of the genes are so subjective, some arguing and debating was bound to ensue.

But, the light at the end of the tunnel is approaching – we’re almost done annotating, so that means we’ll be able to go back to the wet lab soon! I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the annotations compiled together, but most of all, I’m really excited to head back to the lab and start experimenting with Altwerkus!

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