Phage at the End of the Tunnel?

By Ashley Yoo

I’m not going to lie . . . I was scared coming into the lab the first day. I didn’t want to ruin my sample or the materials on the very first day, and the fact that the Bunsen burner was always on but never visible had me on edge. It’s been 4-5 weeks since then, and I’ve become comfortable with the lab that (hopefully) my phages will be able to call home for the time being.

The first couple days of enrichment, direct plating, and lots and lots of M. smeg were a blur. That is until I ended up with a thick, yellow contamination on my streaked plates that left me worried sick. I retraced my steps, and after consulting with the T.A.s and Doctor Fisher, I decided to filter my sample and streak again. The next time I walked into the lab and observed the plate . . . the contamination was still there! What I prayed wouldn’t happen happened. To keep the story short, I was pretty confused and a little distraught. This time, rather than retracing the steps in my head, Dr. Fisher watched as I showed her how I would go about filtering my sample. From there, I discovered that I was making a careless mistake that contaminated the microcentrifuge tubes: I touched the lid. Though it may seem like a minute detail, it made the world of a difference. I filtered my sample again, and streaked a new plate, to come into the lab next time to find a perfect gradation of plaques on my plate. Coming from a rough patch, this made me want to jump for joy (but my sanity kept me glued to the ground). I went straight to work, more confident in my work this time.

Since then, I’ve begun to differentiate between two main phages: one that has plaques with hard edges and one with soft edges. My heart skips a beat every now and then fearing the resurfacing of the horrible yellow goo. However, as I begin to accumulate plates free of contamination and progressive dilutions, I’m beginning to build my confidence in the lab. My phages may not be 100% pure, but it’s getting there, and I’ve been thoroughly impressed with my progress.

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