Phage Hunting: An Experience

By Daniel Choi

I still remember that fateful day when I registered for Phage Hunting, not knowing at all what to expect from it. To be perfectly honest, I had initially only registered for the class because it counted two hours towards the research requirement for my intended major, but, in a short amount of time and with a little bit of patience, I grew to love it sincerely and appreciate it for what it was and all that it was willing to offer me.

After I had registered for the class, in a blink of an eye, I somehow ended up in a conference room filled with a bunch of people I didn’t know in a place miles away from what felt like my only home at the time, discussing the importance of manifesting a willingness to fail, which, at the time, seemed more like a bad omen than the invaluable life lesson that I eventually came to appreciate, a life lesson that, for a time, my experiences in Phage Hunting would not allow me to forget.

I will admit that there have been times in Phage Hunting when I would feel frustrated, to say the very least. There were times when it seemed as though everyone in the laboratory except me was moving perfectly along. There were times when I felt as though I was getting left behind. There were times when I felt that I had made no progress that day. There were times when I felt like a burden to my lab partner and the T.A.’s, times when I felt like they secretly detested me for my apparent inabilities. There were times when I felt as though I didn’t belong in Phage Hunting or even at Johns Hopkins. I remember, for a while, always being the very last one to leave the laboratory everyday, always preventing the professor and the T.A.’s from moving on with their lives, always being a burden.

Still, I held on and kept going not because I had any hope of making what I could call legitimate progress but because it was what was expected of me, unbeknownst to me that, one day, the former would come true.

Still, when all is said and done, I can honestly and easily say that there have been more times in Phage Hunting when I would feel inexplicable amounts of happiness than times when I would feel frustration. I still remember my excitement, my first day, when I got my very own lab coat and goggles. I felt like a real scientist, and that made me very happy.

Whenever I did make progress, I felt an inexplicably overwhelming amount of joy that would just seem to force a moment of giddiness and sometimes a much needed smile on my face. It was a joy that drove all the self-doubt away and made me feel so very proud of myself. At one point, I even learned to smile and laugh at the mistakes that I made, and they made me look forward to doing better all the next times. It seems as though, now, that all that bad was worth it just to make the good all that much better. Now, I truly feel like I belong, like a real Phage Hunter.

At first, those two words really didn’t seem as though they had any business being next to each other, but now, it seems that they have made all the difference for my first semester of college at Johns Hopkins University, and I wouldn’t have or want them any other way. For Phage Hunting, I will eternally be grateful, and I can’t help but feel giddy, whenever I think about taking Phage Hunting II in the spring semester.

I guess the point of Phage Hunting is to understand that it’s perfectly okay for something to rain on your parade because “when it rains, you put on a coat.”

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