What a year it has been

The year is coming to an end and it’s time to reflect. In my first blog I wrote about the resilience I needed while collecting samples. In my second blog I talked about the highs and lows of ‘bonding’ and being proud of my Bazzle. In my third blog I detailed the sequencing information of Bazzle’s DNA and the excitement of going into annotating. 

Would I have taken this course if I knew what I now know? Hell yeah! Taking Bacteriophage Discovery and Genomics has clarified the direction of my career path. Being in the lab is where I belong. This course gave me the taste of what biological researching in a lab requires. During the year I discovered my own capabilities, weaknesses and desires. 

One of my main highlights was going to Auckland University to see the electron microscopy (EM) (1). I felt very privileged as a second-year student to be able to view my bacteriophage using the machine. I loved every second of seeing everyone’s excitement as each phage was loaded and viewed on the EM. 

Image taken by Nikki Freed at Auckland University

As well having amazing experiences, through this course I was able to improve techniques within the lab that I struggled to do beforehand. One example of this that comes to mind is gel electrophoresis (2). In previous courses my hands would shake so much that I would miss the well in the gel or didn’t put the pipette tip far enough that the dye would spill out of the wells. When we were required to do a gel electrophoresis this year, I was very nervous that I would make similar mistakes however, this was the first time that I did everything perfectly. 

Image taken by Heather Hendrickson of me completing the gel electrophoresis

Writing a yearlong manuscript was one of my main challenges I faced this year. Trying to format it in a scientific way was new to me. However, I’m glad that I still got to experience what writing one is like. I believe that this knowledge will benefit me in postgrad when I will be required to do something similar. 

Another challenge I faced was the annotating process, I found it tricky to get my head around and understand all the different components of it. Although, I did quickly begin to understand bits and pieces. This process although tricky, was still very much exciting to learn something I have never done or thought about before. It was also intriguing to me to be able to see all the genes and functions within my own phage. 

On reflection, I am forever grateful for Heather and her knowledge, teaching style and approachability that made this course one to remember and one to help further my career in this amazing field. I am also very grateful of the amazingly talented humans that I became friends with this year. I do not regret taking this course at all. It is one of my best decisions I have ever made to date. Personally, I have never felt prouder of myself then I have this year. This class has empowered me and enabled me to grow more as an undergrad student and as a young scientist.

Thank you to all that have been a part of this journey or have read these blog series of my journey. If you are another student taking this course after 2019 then my advice to you is soak up every moment of this experience and enjoy the excitement of discovering your very own phage. 

References:

  1. UMASS medical school. (n.d). What is Electron Microscopy? Retrieved from https://www.umassmed.edu/cemf/whatisem/ 
  2. Nature education. (2014). Gel electrophoresis. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/scitable/definition/gel-electrophoresis-286/

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