After a lengthy and relaxing summer, the members of the Phagehunting class began to get ready for an exciting year in AMSR. This year, we would be finding novel phages, identifying them,naming them, and hopefully having its DNA or RNA sequenced. As Berkshire School students,we are very fortunate to have an on-campus laboratory in which we can carry out this research.
Our mentors, Dr. Burch and Mr. O’Rourke began the year by giving us different packets ofprotocols, lessons, and laboratory technique that we all had to read in order to enter the research world. For the first two weeks of school, we reviewed this information carefully in order to make the solutions correctly, collect good soil samples, isolate phages, and eventually find a novel phage. It seemed like a lot, but with the help of our mentors, we were able to transition into the laboratory and begin our research.
The first step was to create all of the necessary buffers, solutions, and agar in order to grow Mycobacterum smegmatis, or “smeg.” Smeg would serve as the host for the novel phages that we would be finding. In other words, the viruses that we were hoping to find should be able to infect smeg.
Once we were ready to go, we collected our first soil samples. During the first couple of weeks,none of us had found anything. Then we identified the culprit that prevented us from findingnovel phages: our phage buffer’s pH was way off!
So far, we have not found plaques, but we have learned invaluable laboratory techniques and skills that will help guide us in the right direction. In order to find phages, we have began to enrich our samples with smeg from the very beginning of the soil collection phase. Hopefully, this encourages smeg to grow, thus increasing the possibility of viral infection.
By: Jeffrey Erazo ‘15