The Trials and Tribulations of Phage Lab

By Myles Wood

Whenever I first walked into the lab, I didn’t know what to expect. Having no prior lab experience, my expectations were low, and my esteem lower. (Having an awesome lab partner is key, I would soon learn.) While reading my notebook, I remember that that everything seemed like a foreign language. It just didn’t make sense. I clearly remember getting to lab and worrying about every small little step. Many parts of the process soon became plagued with errors. As the lab progressed that day I remembered Russ say, “Don’t worry, man,” and I tried to believe him. This was the start of an epic journey filled with failure and triumph.

I have made my fair share of mistakes, and then some. However, it is from these extrapolations that I have obtained with an intimate understanding of the process and the biological underpinnings that constitute our efforts. I can say that I have repeated almost every step, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that this determination is what enables one to grow in phage lab. I have streaked plaques more than 2×1028 times, diluted phage concentrations for weeks, and attempted to calculate a “web plate” an even more shameful amount of times. It is from these trials that we grow and appreciate our efforts.

As of my progress, the journey has been long and the learning curve steep, but it has always been fun nonetheless. I began with a handful of dirt, and from this sample I have been able to derive a distinct bacteriophage. It is from this distinct phage I was able to make my first MTL (Medium Titer Lysate) and, more recently, I have was able to make a HTL (High Titer Lysate). With this precious concentration, I can begin to sequence the genome and use the electron microscope to further characterize my phage. When that day comes, I will fall to my knees and weep. But until then, the journey continues.

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