I can’t take heat, period.
It was a hot Wednesday and I needed sample. Dr. Fisher had recommended that we go explore Baltimore to get something exotic, but I unfortunately did not have time over the weekend. Instead, my friend and I decided to take a walk to this pond that we saw on Google Maps. It looked as if it was only a 20 to 30-minute walk away from the Homewood campus, so we eagerly set off with high hopes of finding rich soil full of life.
It was 12 PM and the sun was shining relentlessly, rendering the white sidewalk so bright I could not open my eyes. My friend and I trudged on with sweaty backs until we saw this steep hill – was the pond up there? We ran up, both hopeful and doubtful, only to find a massive construction site. A dry, dead-looking, yellow, and hot construction site. The exact opposite of a pond.
Well, we certainly did not walk all the way out there for nothing, so I got some soil from a nearby area and walked into my first Phage Hunting class happily. The sight of our clean and well-equipped laboratory got me so excited because all I had throughout high school was a chemical-stained bench. Soon after Dr. Fisher showed us some techniques, it was our turn to be the scientists.
First class, and I accidentally set the tip of a pipette on fire. Plus, I could not light the Bunsen burner properly, and could not remove the plunger from the syringe barrel. I have to say, I was quite impressed at how differently my first class deviated from my own expectation. At the very least, though, I have an awesome lab partner. Plus, I did still successfully perform direct isolation, so I thought everything was still acceptable.
The next day went quite smoothly as well, and we left off at day one of plaque assay. I could not wait to pick the plaque – it did not occur to me that I would not be able to find one. And, of course, I did not find one the next day. Thankfully, I was not alone, and went out to the area outside UTL to get more soil with some other Phage Hunters. We re-did what we did in the previous days and bonded over how much we wanted to pick a plaque. An interesting method of socialization, but one that worked very effectively.
Somewhat shockingly, even after doing direct isolation and plaque assay a second time, I still could not find anything. For the third time, I had to hunt for soil sample. Was this phage hunting or soil hunting? This time, I performed enriched isolation and serial dilution rather than direct isolation. As much as I do enjoy research, it would be a lie if I said I kind of, just maybe, wanted to get this part over with.
Indeed, I suppose third time is the charm (for me)! For enriched isolation, I had 6 agar plates instead of 2, and my results from Monday showed that two of them have many interesting little circles. I put them under the magnifying glass, labelled them, and began streaking. Even though I’m not quite sure what I am looking for the next time I am in the lab, I know it is only uphill from here.