I felt so embarrassed. I felt so weird; who sits and gathers dirt into a container in the middle of the day in a garden? This whole experience was not in the course summary, was not what I signed up for. Of course, I knew that around campus other Phage Hunters were similarly gathering soil samples to start our research with, but in this I was alone.
Walking into class that first day made me feel quite a bit better: many also had soil samples and dirt crusted under their fingernails, though a few had forgotten and now had to go outside and gather their own soil. This class was the first venture into lab work that I have ever had, and the feeling that I experienced when putting on my crisp white lab coat can only be described as satisfaction; satisfaction that I was in this class, that I could rightfully wear this coat with others who had perhaps performed more research than I, that it just felt so right.
I expected that first day to be slow, for the professor to discuss what we would do during the semester and what experiment we would follow the entire time. While we did spend about an hour doing just that, we were subsequently thrust into the lab and told to “go at it,” to immediately start work. Suffice to say, that first day did not end well: my desk mate and I set a pipette on fire, got a plunger stuck inside of a test tube, and we released gas while failing to light a Bunsen burner. But everything got better from then on out.
I was so terrified that I would be the one left behind in class, or that everyone else would know more than me. The class seemed something that would stress me out or have more work than all other classes, but sadly this is not the case as I would happily perform extra lab work for this course. As of now, I found plaques on my original plate of phage sample, and have successfully isolated and transferred phages (using a process called streaking) from a plaque on that original plate onto a new plate, and am now waiting – with bated breath – to see if the phage successfully transferred and isolated in a second round of streaking.
Even though we are only a few weeks into classes here, this is the class that I most look forward to every week and am most excited to talk about. I can’t wait to go further in the course and learn more amazing information and techniques, but above all I can’t wait to continue to nurture my little phage(s) and see my love of laboratory research grow.