By Sean Melucci
When you think of biology lab work, the last thing that would come to your mind is working on a computer. However, surprisingly enough, computer software tools are an integral part to biology lab work and research. In this, the second half of the phage-hunting course, the work on the computer was indeed shown to be invaluable. What good is isolating a phage and having it sequenced, if the sequencing data cannot be interpreted and shared with the world? It was our job this semester to interpret the data and annotate the genome of the winning phage “Phatniss”.
Just as in the lab, the annotation of the genome did come with its own trials and tribulations, but in the end they helped us learn and exercise certain computer skills that are very valuable to research involving bacteria or beyond that. It would frustrate me greatly getting the Virtual Machine to install correctly, or DNA Master to start up without immediately shutting down due to failure, or even to BLAST all the genes, but in the end I pushed through it and finally got everything to work so I could begin annotating. Yes I learned important computer skills through this process, but I also learned how to think through problems and continue to persevere, just as I had done in the lab portion of this course. This course, both in the lab and outside of it, will challenge you and make you think outside of the box, all in training you to think like a researcher.
Now, as we enter the last stage of the course being individual projects, I am more excited than ever. I feel like this course taught me a lot about the workings of a lab as well interpreting the data collected, and I feel like this final project is our chance to show the knowledge we have learned as well as learn something new about our phages. This class really has come full circle and truly prepared me to become apart of the amazing research that is being done at this great university.