By Allen Chen
When I first received an email about homework for phage lab, I thought it was funny that the very first assignment of my college career was to go dig up some dirt. I remember putting it off until the day before the first day of lab, which in retrospect was a bad idea because it ended up raining. As punishment for my poor work ethic, I had to dig up my unpleasantly wet soil sample with my bare hand. Luckily for me, it was dark, so at the very least I can say that nobody saw me.
The first few days in lab were difficult. The procedures seemed unnecessarily complicated and lengthy. I remember having to redo my first attempt at a serial dilution because I had forgotten to add the phage onto the plates I was making, resulting in plates that only had top agar on them. On top of that, my plates were upside-down, so the top agar was sitting by itself on an empty lid.
Luckily, I got better and faster at these techniques, and I began to enjoy the project. Finding plaques on my enrichment sample was particularly exciting. Back in high school, I was generally horrible at labs, and seeing the phage on the enrichment plates meant I had actually done something right, which was mildly surprising. I had two different phage morphologies. The first was large and had a fuzzy outline; the second was smaller with a more clearly defined outline. I was definitely a proud parent.
Once I had obtained phages, I began the long process of streaking my plates, and eventually, I was able to purify a single phage population. Currently, I am in the process of creating a webbed plate, or one that is completely covered in a thin layer of phage. This will allow me to make a high-titer lysate (HTL). Right now, I have no idea what that is, but I look forward to learning more about it and the procedure.
So far, I’ve had a blast in this course. I never imagined I’d be able to do something so fun and hands-on during my first semester in college, and it’s been a huge step up from high school. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the year turns out!