By Jane Miglo
Ever since I dug up my dirt sample with a plastic spoon from the FFC, I’ve been contemplating various names for my virus. Due to my obsession with House of Cards and the persistent image in my mind of phages as ruthless beings at the time, I seriously considered naming my phage Francis… maybe Francis Underwood. After all, viruses are supposedly coldblooded, feeding on their host, viciously ripping them to pieces as soon as replicas of hundreds of the same savage creatures are ripened and ready to attack.
But of course, during electron microscopy, it was determined that my expected malicious phage was . . . cute?
At about 100 nm in diameter with an 85 nm tail, my phage is minuscule — certainly not worthy of a domineering name. Not to mention that the tail is shorter than the body . . . how does the phage propel itself efficiently towards the bacteria to devour it in the first place?
Few things go according to plan in phage hunting — just as you think you’re getting good plaques, you realize it’s your negative control . . . Michael Shang. Or as you enter the lab preparing for the final step in the purification process (FINALLY!), crisis ensues — contamination. Or, when given the opportunity to discover a new bacteriophage, it comes out “cute.”
But in those moments, the rare, rare moments when all goes well, all is well. For instance, when your 11th streak comes out successfully, or when Miguel’s plates do not contain contamination, or when you don’t have to turn on your fire to create a sterile environment for a good hour into class.
All in all, the phage hunting is my favorite class. Every time I step into the lab I am reminded of how much I love science. The mere act of pipetting brings me joy. And, alas, I have come to terms with my little phage. Persistence and determination brought us together — the name, however, needs work.