By Vanessa Phuong
Coming back from a sunshine-and-fun-filled spring break in North Carolina where the weather gods are more sensible and merciful, it was pretty hectic when I was suddenly thrown back into the Johns Hopkins way of life, handling the semester deadline by deadline. Much to what I assume would be Dr. Schildbach’s dismay, instead of spending my break honing my skills as a scientist—or rather a world-class typist—in DNAMaster on my laptop, I visited my high school friends at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Specifically, I stayed in a dorm on campus and spent the better part of my week going to a college sports game, eating four meals a day (this is including twilight runs to Subway), watching TV shows, and sleeping in; things I presume people only have time for at state universities. (Editor’s Note: Let’s forgo the letters, folks. The editor graduated from a state university. Go Beavs!)
Anyway, after coming back to Baltimore, where the weather is gloomier than Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, I got together with a couple of my friends from my phage class, Jody and Deborah. The initial plan before spring was to split up our 25 assigned genes and have each of us annotate eight to nine of them by the time of our meet-up, after spring break, and then discuss them all together. Lo and behold, I was still in my lazy and inefficient spring break mode when I came back, and the DNA Master annotation guide is unnecessarily cryptic, especially when pressed for time.
So, on the next day, I came to the meeting with only several in my batch completely annotated. Although I felt like I reeked with unreliability at first, much to my surprise, another one of my group members came to the meeting empty handed. Thus, and this is probably incredibly immoral of me, I felt better about myself, but only a teeny tiny bit. In any case, what I’m really trying to say is that at that point stuff was not getting done and it was all due tomorrow. Thankfully, my other group member did come with her portion completed, so I gave a big thank you to all the almighty divine beings who had a hand in that issuing of luck, hallelujah! And, of course, props to her. Eventually, we did manage to complete the assignment in time, but only after we worked together and shared what tidbits we knew about coding potential, BLAST, gene function, and all that other fun stuff, with each other.
To wrap this blog post up, although I overall sound very pessimistic about annotation and life in general…there are some positive, albeit cliché, parts about second semester in phage hunting that keep me motivated when working with a terribly confusing program like DNA Master. And those parts would be bonding over mutual confusion, feeling an overall strong sense of teamwork, and hanging out with a great bunch of students every Tuesday and Thursday. Yeah!
Also, for balance, this blog post calls for a cute cat.