Phage Hunt: The Phinal Phrontier

To keep the continuation of these blogs going I thought I’d, again, talk about the adventures of lab work. In the last blog post, we had reached the stage of DNA sequencing as our samples had just been sent off to America. Low and behold, my phage was one of the chosen ones. I actually couldn’t believe this and thought it was very ironic as I had made my dislike of Phage Hunt apparent from the beginning. I’m pretty sure it was the universe telling me to suck it up and role with things! It was really exciting to know that I would be able to find out more about my bacteriophage and that the hard work and tears had paid off.

My phage, Beatrix, and Leani’s phage, Daegal, had been sequenced and those were the two phages that were being analysed by the class in this half of the semester.

We had all previously thought that the practical labs had been the hardest part of this double semester paper but we had yet to embark on the journey that is learning how to annotate genes. Annotating genes is a very confusing process and once you get the hang of it it’s just tedious but doable. Annotating genes consists of deciding on all of the important parts of the gene. If you don’t get it right then it’ll be engraved into the science guide book forever and you could be the reason why antibiotic resistance cannot be cured. It’s not as serious as that but you do want to make sure you’re as accurate as possible. For example, you need to have reasons and evidence as to why you’re calling the start codon at a specific place. For annotating genes, we have to label the start and stop codons, select the coding potential, Z score, gaps and all this other fancy stuff that I have just gotten used to.

We are lucky as we have resources and databases that help us to make the right calls when we’re annotating. DNA Master is one of these things. It is a beautiful software programme that has all of the genes of the phage listed and all of the information that is needed to make the calls about parts of the gene. We basically go through all the genes, adding notes and double checking all the information so it is as accurate and detailed as possible. Another good aspect of annotating is that we got to work in pairs and so the we we’re able to struggle through with at least some moral support.

Despite the theme of complaining about how hard everything is, Phage Hunt has taught me some valuable lessons about science and life in general. Phage Hunt is one of those papers that allows you to make your own discoveries and is very heavy on the self-directed learning which is really helpful as it teaches you that you can actually do things. It pushes you to do things for yourself and rely on yourself more which is what the real world expects. It also gives you a hand on experience in a field of science that no other paper does. It allows you to gain valuable skills and techniques in the laboratory which you can apply later on in life as we are all science majors. Any practical leaning experience is great to have. The work load is killer but it means you have to keep on top of everything and procrastination cannot exist in your schedule!

Phage Hunt also allowed me to discover more of the wonderful world of science memes which I greatly appreciate.

Phage Hunt has been a roller coaster of a ride but the skills and connections that have been made make it all worth it. Hopefully this has been a cute yet potentially cheesy insight into the life of a Phage Hunter and encourages others to have a go!

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