Phamily Problems

By Justin Decker

I remember being very upset when I couldn’t register for phage hunting during the fall semester.  When registration for the spring semester came around, I was super excited to get into the class.  Everything sounded so intriguing: working with phages, annotating genes, and more.  It really seemed like the ideal course for one who’s truly interested in those facets of biology.  However, once the class began, I found it to be a bit of a struggle.

Being new to the class among all the other veteran phage hunters was intimidating.  There was so much of biology that I had forgotten since high school.  Once in the class, the biologic concepts I learned became very important to the class and discussions.  Then, there was so much jargon used in the experiments done during the fall semester that I didn’t know. Everything seemed to just be going over my head while everyone else seemed to understand well the topics.  After a while, the biology I had learned in high school started to come back, and the technical words used in wet lab the semester prior became more familiar.  Things started to become more clear.  Then annotations came into view.

With annotations, everyone was a tyro.  That was good.  We’d all get through it together.  At first, it was a mess.  DNA Master took centuries to blast all the genes – or maybe DNA Master wouldn’t even open at all.  Other issues revealed themselves with VirtualBox and Phamerator.  The culmination of being new to annotating and the technical hassles made the class very frustrating and difficult, mais c’est la vie… If there were problems, we’d have to resolve them.  Somehow, from the DNA Master and Phamerator errors to finally getting the hang of annotating genes, we did it.  Our struggle as a phage phamily to annotate and debate the functions of genes while working with fussy DNA Master was over.  As a class, we all finished annotating all 103 genes of the phage Altwerkus.

Now, there are the independent experiments to look forward to starting.  It will be exciting to learn and see what my classmates have planned to investigate, and I will look forward to trying to isolate my own phage.  As with science, the journey always continues.


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