My interest in HIV research started in the Summer of 2017 when I did the Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship Program (ASSIP) at Dr. Fatah Kashanchi’s lab. I studied the autophagy pathway in HIV-infected cells over the summer. Autophagy is the pathway regulating the degradation of unnecessary cellular components. After the summer, Dr. Kashanchi was kind enough to let me stay in his lab to do further research. The more I learn about these viruses, the more fascinating they are to me. I feel very fortunate to gain the research experience like this as an undergrad since this would be very helpful for my future education in graduate school. My OSCAR project is about the use of irradiation (IR) in HIV treatment.
I go to the lab 3 – 4 days to work on my Fall OSCAR project. The first thing I do when I get into the lab is to look at my calendar and see what I need to do that day, and the last thing before I leave the lab is to write down a to-do list for my next day. Typically, there is always at least one day in a week that I would do data analysis and subculture my cells. On the other days, I either work on the experiment or discuss the next steps of the experiment with my mentor.
One thing I discovered this semester is that even though the experiment may not go as planned sometimes, there is always a new thing for us to learn no matter how the experiment turns out. At first, we planned to study only the effect of IR in the vesicles released by HIV-infected cells. However, as the experiment went on, we think that we can have better effect by combining Rapamycin (an autophagy inducer) with IR. We also use another autophagy inducer called INK128, but we put a lot more hope into Rapamycin since it is a more popular drug and has been used for a much long time than INK128. However, the result is not what we expected, and INK128 turns out to be a better candidate than Rapamycin. We were quite disappointed at first since we put our focus on Rapamycin. However, we were delighted later to find that our data consistently support INK128 throughout the experiment.